Sunday, May 31, 2020

Eye of the Needle



The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping our world. An article by William Rees points out that "clearing skies and cleaner waters should inspire hopeful ingenuity. If we wish to thrive on a finite planet, we have little choice but to see the COVID-19 pandemic as preview and our response as dress rehearsal for the bigger play. Again, the challenge is to engineer a safe, smooth, controlled contraction of the human enterprise. Surely it is within our collective imagination to socially construct a system of globally networked but self-reliant national economies that better serve the needs of a smaller human family. The ultimate goal of economic planning everywhere must now turn to ensuring that humanity can thrive indefinitely and more equitably within the biophysical means of nature."

This is impacting the schedule of the World Climate Foundation summit, as well as the COP26 date. "In 2020, climate action must take on a new format to ensure global momentum is maintained. Short and long-term objectives should aim to overcome the socio-economic disruptions of COVID-19 and kickstart the global economy through resilient and ambitious green agendas, prioritizing net-zero commitments and low carbon investments now and throughout the next ten years.

With the postponement of the COP26 to 2021, World Climate Foundation is equally postponing its annual World Climate Summit to 2021, and now offers an exciting new series of digital, regional World Climate Forums. At these Forums, governments can transform climate ambitions into successful markets for climate business and market players in major regions of the world and instigate collaboration on policy, innovation, and investments."For decades, scientists have been demanding that climate crisis be taken this seriously. But despite numerous international agreements, governments have been slow to take action to reduce carbon emissions."

The coronavirus pandemic may have one silver lining: the potential collapse of big oil. "As Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, recently pointed out,  the drop in oil prices also offers an opportunity for countries around the world to lower or remove subsidies for fossil fuel consumption,  which disproportionally line the pockets of wealthy individuals and  corporations with money that could go to education, health care or clean  energy projects."

Optimists are encouraged by people such as the director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, who last April called the crisis an “historic opportunity today to steer [energy] investments onto a more sustainable path.” With G20 governments already pledging around $5 trillion to stimulate their economies in the wake of the shutdown, Birol called on them to “put clean energy at the heart of stimulus plans to counter the coronavirus crisis.” Birol said he had urged political and global financial leaders to design “sustainable stimulus packages” that focus on investing in clean energy technologies and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. In its latest short-term projections, the US EIA says that it expects the biggest hit to oil demand in the second quarter of 2020, but that the reduction will only “gradually dissipat[e] over the course of the next 18 months”

The Rocky Mountain Institute is issuing a series of stimulus white papers to respond to the climate crisis, the economic shifts and provide guidance to governments and industry for rapid decarbonization."As the effects of the COVID-19 crisis ripple across the globe, strategic stimulus and recovery investments can get world economies back on track now and help us build back in a way that ensures greater resilience to the disruptions and crises we will inevitably face in the future. The current pandemic shows many parallels to, and interconnections with, a looming climate crisis. A response that addresses both crises at once will advance a low-carbon economy that is more resilient and helps mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, while improving the economy, the environment, and our health and communities."

In response to the impact of the pandemic, the RMI's recommended programs aim to catalyze industries, technologies, and practices shown to improve public health, decrease costs, create enduring job opportunities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The four programs are:
  • Build Back Better Buildings: A building retrofit program to catalyze residential and commercial building improvements at an unprecedented scale.
  • Enhance Access and Electrify Mobility: Investment to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit over the automobile, while also supporting the growth of the electric vehicle market.
  • Debt Forgiveness for a Sustainable Recovery: A financial incentive program to provide companies with debt relief based on verifiable emissions reductions.
  • Economic Recovery Facility for Financing Low- and Zero-Carbon Activities: A federal entity dedicated to facilitating the financing of clean energy and infrastructure projects.
A simple debt forgiveness approach can help industries and workers feeling economic pain now and build toward a more sustainable, low-emissions future.

Update 6/26/20: Degrowth: A Call for Radical Abundance

Update 7/23/20: Tom Steyer - Clean Energy as a job generator

Update 7/30/20:  Some Earth system tipping points may be linked together