Strong environmental leadership has never been more important
The spread of the coronavirus has left few, if any, communities untouched. Governments around the Globe have had to respond quickly. Emergency evacuation measures have been put in place, workers have been ordered to stay home, and relief packages are starting to flow. This is how government action is in times of unrest. And this new sense of movement and rapid response provides a powerful lesson for the next crisis we know is coming: climate change.
In fact, climate change is already here. Last year was the second warmest year ever, and wildfires ravaged forests in the West. The world was shocked by the emergence of a new disease with global effects, but climate change is not new. The risk is real and the risk is now.
However, with public attention focused on coronavirus, some governments’ administration weakened environmental rules, allowing industry to self-regulate its air and water pollution. Fuel efficiency standards were also rolled back, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions. We must keep up the pressure for strong environmental protections at all levels of government, despite the coronavirus view of overseeing polluting industries.
The most inspirational response to coronavirus has been the mutual help from person to person. We understand, more than at any time in recent memory, that we share a common social bond. A solution must be reached together. Once a coronavirus has disappeared and is at an end, our joint response to the pandemic must inform us how to move forward and tackle climate change.
Some Governments around the world have an advance example of the widespread mobilization required to make an important change.
If we can use private industry to produce ventilators and protective equipment in times of need, why can’t we use the same strategy to build renewable energy and battery storage capacity, in rapid order, to transform our electricity sector away from fossil fuel production. ? If we could take swift action to build emergency hospitals around the world during this pandemic, some countries can similarly use trained professionals to weather, insulate and install heat pumps in homes and buildings to reduce our energy demand. The risk to our lives, homes and jobs requires an urgent, immediate response. Strong environmental leadership has never been more important.