Covid-19 vs climate change
The parallels between the Coronavirus response and how we should collaboratively tackle the climate crisis should not be overlooked. Tackling either problem will change our lifestyle in a number of ways, and we will all have to make short term adaptations for a much longer-term gain. I believe that the pandemic also shows us that we can all live differently, that we are all adaptable and that we continue to care for the most vulnerable.
There are also some very important differences too; namely the speed in which we witness any effects and how long we all live with the impact. Covid-19 is immediate, it’s on everyone’s minds (no matter how fatigued we all are by the topic) and we simply cannot get away from it. Climate change, on the other hand, feels like a much longer-term threat which doesn’t invoke the same kind of unease or fear. As Alex Steffen, a climate futurist, explains, it’s “not an issue, it’s an era”.
An active response
The short-term imperative of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t alter the urgency of dealing with the climate crisis. And certainly, there is currently no ‘silver bullet’ for solving either the pandemic or climate change. However, there are a set of agreed actions that every business and individual can and should take to help tackle these issues.
For Covid-19 it’s about working from home, social distancing, washing our hands and wearing masks to protect one another. And of course, working to find a vaccine and treatment for longer term protection.
For climate change, it’s about understanding and taking responsibility for our climate impact, both changing our behaviour to reduce our carbon footprint and by compensating for any emissions we continue to produce. In much the same way, how we tackle climate change is also intrinsically linked to how we tackle the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including poverty, health, education and employment challenges too; all of which need to be active responses taken by everyone and taken right now.
Building back better
If we are indeed going to ‘build back better’ then we need to work towards a sustainable low carbon recovery and this needs to be done with realism and integrity. Not only does this mean that we need to work together to create integrated and robust climate strategies, but we also need to ensure that compensating for all residual emissions is part of everyday business too. This means companies moving away from engaging with climate change mitigation mainly for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and instead treating it as the business-critical issue that it is.
Re-tool, rather than restarting the engine
Certainly, the tragic consequences of the Covid-19 crisis have taken immediate attention away from the threat of climate change and indeed the other global tragedies’ that face our world. The key here, as we come out of lockdown, is that we all need to re-tool, rather than merely starting the engine back up again.
Ways we can do this include taking time now to set a more robust climate strategy that aligns with Science Based Targets (SBTs), going climate neutral today and ensuring a plan is in place to achieve net zero by 2030.
Tackling climate change is integral to delivering the UN Global Goals. And companies can make smart use of their budgets by compensating for emissions through the highest quality projects that improve lives, as well as cut carbon. This means tackling poverty, creating jobs, empowering communities and improving health
Working together collaboratively like this and taking stock of what was not working well in the first place (pre-pandemic) is essential to ensure we don’t continue making the same mistakes as before. Never before has there been a better time to raise the bar and our own ambitions about what positive corporate action looks like.