Goldbecksolar employees test a module in a solar park under construction in a former gravel mine.
Jens Buttner | Image Alliance | Getty Images
During the coronavirus pandemic, the worst public health crisis in a century, some people pointed to a tiny silver lining for the planet: global lockdown measures reduced climate change-related carbon dioxide emissions.
Global greenhouse gas emissions fell by around 7% from 2019 as businesses closed and fewer people traveled by car and plane to contain the spread of the virus. The decline results in a decrease in global warming of around 0.01 degrees Celsius by 2050 – a negligible impact, the scientists say.
But until 2020 ends and a first introduction of vaccines raises hopes of an early end to the pandemic, scientists warn that emissions will rise again next year and will continue to rise unless governments prioritize climate change in their economic stimulus plans for Covid-19 .
Invest in a green recovery
In response to the economic damage caused by the pandemic, the world’s largest economies have already allocated more than $ 12 trillion to resume economies, according to the International Monetary Fund.
It is an unprecedented global effort that scientists and researchers must embrace climate resilient projects such as increasing green public transport, renewable energy and smart power grids.
“These stimulus packages are a unique opportunity to kickstart a green recovery that locks us into a just and sustainable future,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Program.
“The science is clear. Time is running out,” said Andersen. “We have a decade to change our economies and avoid climate catastrophes.”
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A so-called green recovery from the pandemic involves moving away from investing in and providing subsidies for fossil fuels to investing in zero-emission technologies and infrastructure, ending coal-fired power plant production, and restoring and preserving the planet.
“There is a benchmark for effective and lasting emissions reductions,” said Kim Cobb, climate researcher at Georgia Tech. “The pandemic is failing in all respects.”
“After the pandemic, the world’s governments will invest trillions of dollars in efforts to stimulate the economy and alleviate suffering,” Cobb said. “You should make these stimulus packages emission-friendly and fair.”
Workers install wind turbines in a wind farm on November 16, 2020 in Anqing, Anhui Province, China.
Li Long | Visual China Group | Getty Images
The world is still aiming for a temperature increase of more than 3 degrees Celsius this century, which is well above the goals of the global Paris Agreement. The rise in temperature is linked to more frequent and more destructive climatic disasters such as hurricanes and forest fires, rapid ice melting and increased sea level rise.
A recovery in the green pandemic could cut expected emissions by up to 25% in 2030 and cut the chances of keeping the world below a 2-degree Celsius scenario by up to 66%, according to a UN report released earlier this month. increase.
“Huge Missed Opportunity”
Jennifer Layke, global director of the World Resources Institute research group, emphasized that the window of opportunity for governments to invest in climate resilient technologies and infrastructures is critical.
For example, leaders of countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan have urged states to invest in technologies like solar power and electric vehicles as part of their pandemic recovery plans.
However, many countries developing stimulus programs have failed to prioritize investments in clean energy, and policymakers and energy system participants are drawing on what they have done in the past.
According to the United Nations, only around a quarter of the G20 heads of state and government have spent part of their spending, up to 3% of GDP, on low-carbon measures
“Ambition alone does not help us to reduce emissions.”
UN environmental program
“We haven’t seen how much is invested in eco-friendly incentives that would allow us to move from fossil fuels to cleaner technologies,” said Layke. “It’s a big missed opportunity.”
The global response to the pandemic is reminiscent of the financial crisis 10 years ago, Layke said when carbon emissions rose higher than ever after governments around the world invested more in fossil fuels to recover from the recession.
“The economy is a big tanker going in the wrong direction around the world,” she said. “This is the moment these executives need to take action. If their past investments in Covid-19 recovery are an indicator, we are off course.”
More net zero emissions targets
It is also crucial that governments around the world update and consolidate more ambitious climate targets at the next round of UN talks to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
While emissions trends aren’t looking good, a global shift is afoot. The UN report showed that 126 countries, which account for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions, will have adopted or are considering net zero emission targets by mid-century.
China, the world’s largest polluter, has vowed to cut its emissions to zero by 2060. Britain has vowed to cut emissions by 68% by 2030. Korea and Japan have announced net zero targets.
In the US, President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to resume the Paris Agreement and bring emissions to zero by 2050, although it is unclear how ambitious his emissions reduction target will be.
Despite a large number of countries committed to reduction targets, experts criticized their global pandemic incentives for not prioritizing investments in energy efficiency.
“Ambition alone will not help us reduce emissions. It is absolutely essential that countries translate these ambitions and commitments into nationally determined contributions and start implementing plans,” said Andersen.
“I also urge governments to use the next wave of Covid-19 financial interventions to move us in that direction because ultimately we simply cannot set a price for the future that we will lose.”