– The advance of coronavirus will force companies to adopt home office. With the new working model, the GHG emission derived from urban mobility will be significantly reduced.
– At the height of the crisis, in February, China reduced its emissions by 25%.
– In periods of economic crisis, the resources for the environmental area are the most vulnerable to cuts, which can compromise the goals of the Paris Agreement.
– Observing the great engagement of governments in the fight against the coronavirus, it is clear that the obstacle to overcoming the climate crisis depends on political mobilization, not capabilities.
In order to prevent the exponential explosion of coronavirus cases, so that health systems are not overburdened and can properly treat the groups most at risk, several governments have implemented measures to prevent crowding. Under quarantines or bans on non-essential establishments, the global community is forced to maintain its activities, if possible remotely.
It is not difficult to predict that in the coming weeks there will be investments by companies and organizations to enable home office on a large scale, as well as webinars rather than face-to-face meetings. Institutions that do not yet use these options usually do not do so for fear of losing the productivity of their employees. This litmus test will guide the executives’ rational decisions in this regard.
If the experience is positive, the model is likely to be widely implemented on an ongoing basis, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to urban mobility. China, the first epicenter of the crisis and the leader in annual emissions since 2005, reduced its emissions by at least 25% in February, the peak of the outbreak, at the cost of a severe economic impact.
The global crisis that begins as a consequence of the pandemic will take out of circulation a considerable part of the capital previously available for investment. These amounts have been increasingly directed to energy projects, either to renewable sources or to greater efficiency. The scarcity of these resources, coupled with the drop in the price of oil, will probably reduce the speed of the urgent energy transition to a clean matrix.
As aligned in 2015 in Paris, the linked nations must submit in 2020 a review of their NDCs by 2030 and 2050. With all the attention and space for discussion focused on the virus, there is likely to be less pressure from civil society on its representatives on the issue, making the new commitments fall far short of what they could be in the baseline scenario. The likely one-off reduction in emissions this year, due to the economic effects of the disease and expected to rise again soon after the peak of the crisis, may serve as a pretext for Parties to engage even less.
It is indispensable to remember that, in a situation of economic crisis, there is a frustration of collection on the part of the States. Historically, public managers who opt for austerity measures tend to severely cut resources from environmental programs, usually considering that the political impact of such restraint is less than that of other options.
However, few bear in mind that the effects of climate change, aggravated by such cuts, will be felt even more by the economy, generating long and constant cycles of recession and depression, as well as other socioeconomic impacts. Several researches show that as long as the Earth continues to warm, there will be an increase in the onset and intensity of diseases. Covid-19 may be just a taste of things to come.
No one could predict the outbreak, yet the causes and impacts of climate change have been known for more than 30 years. The different governments acted with urgency to avoid the worst of the coronavirus. It is clear then that the slow reaction to the climate crisis is not about capacity, but about political mobilization. Will there be mobilization of the different sectors to reverse this situation?
*By: Alexandre Batista
CBC Projects Coordinator
PhD student in Environmental Policies – UFRJ