Science

Has the coronavirus lockdown led to a green recovery?

As the first wave of coronavirus broke on our shores in early March, we sensed that we might be in this for the long run and, 8 months later, we are still trying to contend with the new reality that COVID is shaping. As the virus rapidly spread through our towns and cities, it quickly diminished the health of the country – taking with it a sense of security and reducing certainty in the future. This dissolution of certainty and security, alongside the far-reaching halt in production and activity that lockdown has entailed, has meant that the future of our economy is looking increasingly dim.

On top of this, we have had to contend with the creeping threat of climate change – a threat predicated on, and multiplied through, systemic injustices. In order to combat these resonant threats, calls have been made to find solutions that not only create long-term, high-skilled jobs but that also ensure a just transition to a low-carbon economy. In the Green Recovery, such solutions might just be found. Retrospectively assessing the costs and benefits of different recovery approaches following the 2008 financial crisis, research by the University of Oxford has shown that investments in ‘green’ projects can deliver higher returns than more carbon-intensive projects.

The concept of the Green Recovery would, in theory at least, not only centre economic stimulus but also bring about widespread decarbonisation, in line with net zero ambitions. The combination of these approaches is hoped to regrow the economy, and also begin to address some of the larger issues that climate change represents – before they become entrenched.

So, not only would investment in green projects trigger sorely needed economic regrowth, but it could also deliver environmentally friendly outcomes. The public appetite for such approaches has recently been confirmed: reports from the UK climate assembly, a group of 108 members that have been selected as representatives of the UK population, have shown that 8 in 10 people would support a ‘green recovery’.

This green inclination will be in no small part due to the reconnection with nature that many have reported to feel over lockdown. And this reconnection isn’t surprising, there have been reports worldwide of animals returning to cities – in particular, lots of people began to notice the melodic return of birdsong to their urban lives.  

Many were hopeful that this reconnection to nature might spur a green shift in business practices, However, despite lockdown-induced emission reductions, a recent study by UEA Professor Corinne Le Quéré has shown that there has been a rapid post-lockdown rebound in emissions. Businesses and industry seem to be returning once again to their destructive practices, the sound of birdsong left ringing in the public’s ears.    

03/11/2020

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Troy Fielder