Georg Kell’s Thoughts on Covid-19’s Influence on Climate Action

Georg Kell's Thoughts on Covid-19's Influence on Climate Action

Covid-19 has brought chaos, disruption, and misery – but it may also bring opportunities to learn and grow more sustainably, according to Forbes contributor Georg Kell.
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A Temporary Respite?
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Kell points out that up until the pandemic, the nations of the world have done relatively little to cut back on the emissions that drive climate change. The Covid-19 lockdowns in many parts of the world have created a significant drop in emissions: since so many businesses have been shuttered and travel has been curtailed, emissions have plummeted. 
Of course, this drop in emissions is temporary. As more and more parts of the world move to resume normal economic activity, it is probably safe to assume that industries will soon be producing emissions at ordinary rates. 
Kell is aware of this, but his analysis suggests several reasons to hope that the novel coronavirus pandemic will be a catalyst for change in the direction of sustainability. 
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A New Political and Economic Framework
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The first factor Kell points to is the changes that have occurred in the political and economic framework. Wealthy countries have already pledged over USD$4 trillion in Covid-19-related fiscal stimuli | http://USDA Extends Deadline for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program |. While this development brings risks, particularly in the form of distorting state intervention, inefficiencies, and moral hazards, it also brings opportunities to tackle inequality and improve public services – and to build cleaner, greener, more eco-friendly markets by tying aid to carbon-conscious commitments. 
So far, the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, and China have implemented measures in line with less carbon-intensive pathways. The U.S. has gone the other way, drawing down environmental standards, and Mexico has frozen new wind and solar projects.
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Accelerating the Energy Transformation 
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Second, the energy transformation has accelerated under Covid-19. Renewables are about one-third of power generation in many major markets at present. Fossil fuels still hold a dominant position in the energy sector beyond power generation, but there are very real opportunities for decarbonization in the rest of the sector.
Even before the pandemic, much of this was underway thanks to technological progress, the falling costs of many renewables, price volatility of oil and gas, and anticipated regulatory changes. 
By the end of 2020, total investments in renewables are expected to exceed investments in fossil fuels for the first time ever. Investors are showing real interest in wind and solar farms. 
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Big Business is Going Carbon-Conscious 
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Even before the pandemic, large corporations were already building momentum to reduce carbon emissions. And carbon-consciousness | Learn more on Commonshare | has only grown during the pandemic.
For example, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), founded in 2015, had its largest increase in membership ever. And Apple, the world’s most valuable corporation, made an announcement in July that it plans to become carbon neutral for its supply chains | Learn more on Commonshare | and products by 2030. 
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Sustainable Finance on the Rise
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A fourth factor, Kell explains, is the rise of sustainability thinking among investors. Even before Covid-19, investors were seeking to incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors | Learn more on Commonshare | into decision-making processes.
Since the pandemic, however, this trend has accelerated. Tools such as Arabesque S-Ray’s Temperature™ Score – a tool that measures individual company’s contributions to increased global temperatures – make it easier than ever to measure participation in environmental stewardship. It is likely that this trend will only continue.
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Looking Toward the Future 
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The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the world into chaos, but it has also contributed to trends toward sustainability. A new paradigm is afoot, as governments, businesses, and citizens struggle to cope with the new realities. 
It remains to be seen what 2021 will hold, but so far, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the push toward sustainability in a global civilization. And as Kell explains, this is an opportunity for a fresh start. 
 
 

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