In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, 207 business leaders have called for measures to sustain a greener future post-pandemic. But what does this mean for economic recovery?
With representatives from Lloyds Bank, Asda, Siemens and Sky, a letter addressed to Boris Johnson is calling on the UK to prioritise 3 items: low carbon investment, decarbonisation of the economy and financial support for companies working in accordance with environmental goals.
Supported by business and investment networks including the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group, the new green initiatives focus on lower-carbon economies, with the ultimate aim of meeting the UK's target of net zero emissions by 2050.
In a recent survey by Ipsos Mori, 65% of people questioned believe climate change should be prioritised in the economic recovery from the pandemic. The desire for this change is not limited to the UK, with 81% of those surveyed in India and 80% of Mexicans in favour of a green future. With international support, this offers a glimmer of hope that this could be the beginning of a global change for the better.
Going back to normal as we've known it may never happen, so what might look different in a post-pandemic world?
Government bailouts and pledges from the International Monetary Fund should be mainly directed towards green companies. While a shattered travel industry has meant airlines need help to get back off the ground, there are calls for these companies to move towards greener objectives.
In a bid to move towards decarbonisation and champion low carbon innovation, taxes should be imposed on fossil fuel companies to incentivise movement towards renewable energy.
By investing in green industries, these sectors can support sustainable job creation. From offshore wind farms and electric transport to green architecture, investing in these industries helps safeguard the future of employment.
Some companies are using the pandemic as an excuse to continue carbon-intensive activity, with some going as far as to make environmental protests illegal in line with social distancing measures. In China, relaxation of environmental legislation will be undertaken to get the economy back on its feet after the pandemic.
'The government is understandably focusing on the present crisis, but they must heed the dangers of reacting too late to threats and remember one of the gravest in the world - the climate emergency.' Meryam Omi is Head of Sustainability and Responsible Investment Strategy at Legal & General.
A vital motivator for a green economy is not just the environment, but also the health and wellbeing of humans. Studies have shown for a long time that human wellbeing is inextricably linked with the environment, with more allergies, asthma, heart disease and cancer linked to climate change as noted by researchers at Harvard Medical School's Centre for Health and Global Environment back in 2011.
As highlighted by UN Chief Antonio Guterres, 'Nature is sending us a clear message. We are harming the natural world, to our own detriment.' With green spaces essential for all elements of human health, the need to conserve these areas from both climate and wellbeing perspectives is clearer than ever.
While the pandemic may have paved the way for a green future, huge efforts must be made for our current climate trajectory to be averted. With a strong coronavirus recovery campaign to 'Build back better,' Group Chief Executive at Lloyds Banking Group, António Horta-Osório, says that 'Working together we can build a cleaner, greener and more resilient economy for the whole of the UK.'
Colin Matthews, Non-Executive Chairman at EDF Energy offers the following wisdom: 'There’ll be no healthy economy without a healthy population and a healthy planet.'
Despite the havoc lockdown has created, COVID-19 has provided an unexpected opportunity to change the way we live. Leaving behind the emission-fuelled lifestyles we've become so used to will be a challenge. But with the pandemic unveiling a world crying out for help, the real question is this: if not now, when?