When this crisis passes, the world economy will bounce back. Emissions must notby Fatih Birol / March 24, 2020 / Leave a comment
In just a few short months, the coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed hospitals around the world, killing thousands of people, disrupting travel and trade, and shuttering economies in an unprecedented global crisis.
But while the world’s attention is rightly focussed on these urgent public health and economic issues, we should not lose sight of the global challenge of climate change.
Given the collapse in economic activity around the world, it is all but certain that carbon dioxide emissions will decline this year. This comes after emissions flatlined last year even as the global economy grew.
But I see no reason to celebrate a coronavirus-driven dip in emissions that will likely be achieved on the back of premature deaths, widespread suffering and economic hardship. As economies kick back into gear, emissions will rebound.
Governments will resolve this health crisis. And as they do so, the measures they put in place to help the world economy recover from this extraordinary shock should be designed with our climate challenge in mind. Their stimulus plans should seize the clear opportunities for creating jobs and improving vital infrastructure while accelerating the all-important transitions to cleaner energy.
Every country’s energy system has its own characteristics, and the use of public resources needs to be tailored to each situation. But there are five broad areas where governments can act:
Ignite demand through “cash for clunkers”: Consumer spending tends to fall sharply during downturns, so governments should encourage people to start shopping again for big-ticket purchases like cars and washing machines. Cash-for-clunkers scrappage programmes, with economic incentives focussed on improving energy efficiency across a wide variety of major household goods, would boost consumer demand and achieve lasting reductions in emissions.
Put clean energy jobs at the centre of stimulus packages: Despite stunning declines in the cost of wind and solar technology in recent years, they have yet to attract the level of investment needed to meet international climate goals. Government-driven support for wind and solar farms is a fast way to create new jobs all along the supply chain. Investing in energy efficiency also has large benefits for employment; previous stimulus plans in the United States and elsewhere supported large numbers of jobs by fuelling demand for the labour-intensive work of upgrading buildings, so…