COVID-19 and Global Warming: A time for change or the end as we know it?

Tasmin Fatodu | Student Writer

The International Renewable Energy Agency predicts this year’s annual emissions will reduce between 6 – 8% as a result of the pandemic. As many people all over the world worked from home and vast amounts of vehicles came off the road, it has made many people wonder: could COVID-19 highlight the necessary change needed to save the planet?

Back in May 2019, the UK government declared a Climate Emergency. Over a` year later while we are easing out of lockdown, it is clear to see how the government respond to an emergency, as the country was brought to a standstill. Why is the Climate Emergency not being treated with a similar urgency?

It appears alarming that the potential outcomes of COVID-19 on the planet is whether we will move towards more sustainable measures, or if the government will use the drastic contraction in the economy to continue to put profit over the environment. If the planet is to be liveable for humans, emissions have to fall by 7.6% every year until 2050, to keep below 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming, according to the UN Emissions Gas Report 2019. Most scientists are worried about this goal being far out of reach.

Many green activists and scientists believe that this pandemic is only the beginning of the world catastrophically changing. However, the pandemic could be an opportunity to put in place sustainable policies, which many countries have already begun to do. Renewable energy, according to IRENA, could also be key to a global economic recovery, with gains of up to £80 trillion from now till 2050.

In the UK, part of Rishi Sunak’s plan to get the economy to bounce back is to invest £50 million in recovering the economy through renewable means. Many politicians, such as Ed Miliband, believe that this is not good enough in comparison to other countries, such as Germany, who are investing up to €15 billion. Significant responsibility must also lie with China, India and America to cut their emissions, as they are the leading polluters in the world.

Change is not going to come from swapping your toothbrush or not charging your mobile overnight. Change has to come from citizens lobbying and protesting to their governments to reduce emissions drastically and to act quickly, as we draw closer to an uninhabitable planet.

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