One of the few good news stories in recent weeks has been the reduction in carbon emissions and pollution, exemplified by the smog-free satellite photos we have seen of China and Northern Italy. The air in Bristol, along with other UK cities, is noticeably cleaner.
This has led to thinking about how the pandemic may lead to progress in the fight against the climate emergency. Humanity is united against a common enemy and after the virus is defeated we must turn our attention to the climate crisis enemy. If clean-energy projects can be kept moving throughout the crisis, while fossil industries are more heavily impacted and move backwards, then it may be that clean energy rebounds strongly and we find that 2019 was the year of peak emissions. I am certainly seeing an increase in work on the development of clean energy projects, with the legal side of the developments being an aspect that can be pushed forward while people are locked-down.
Long-term emissions reductions will require government policy to clean up our electricity system, increase the penetration of electric vehicles and retrofit our homes away from burning fossil gas. These changes will take more than short-term behaviour changes. The government will have a lot on its plate over the next few months but there was encouraging progress prior to the lock-down, with announcements about support for established technologies solar and onshore wind. For the climate's sake, let's hope that continues when we can all get out and about again.
The Covid-19 pandemic has unleashed humanity’s instinct to transform itself in the face of a universal threat and it can help us do the same to create a livable planet for future generations.