Today marks the 50th Anniversary of World Earth Day and it could not come at a more poignant time. As Covid-19 brings our world to an abrupt halt we see the effects this is having on the planet. The skies are clearing of pollution, India reports being able to see the Himilayas through clear skies for the first time in 30 years. Wildlife returns to clear waters, 8 in10 flights globally are grounded reducing carbon emissions to record lows and crude oil becomes completely worthless.
However this is not a cause for celebration as the positive results for our planet come at a huge cost to the lives of people and our economy. Scientists also predict that the decrease in emissions is still less than what is needed every year to reduce the disastrous effects of climate change. What it has served to do is give us a big wake up call and demonstrate to us the enormity of our impact on the planet and the challenge ahead.
I am hopeful though that we will move forward from this in a new and positive direction. As world leaders make recovery plans for the future after Covid 19, WWF and other environmental groups called for the EU institutions to take heed in an open letter -
"Business as usual is not an option, and economy-wide un-targeted measures would risk putting on life-support obsolete and polluting industries which have no future in tomorrow's economy. Instead, the stimulus packages must support 'future proofing' companies through a rapid shift of their business models towards sustainability, calling for public support to be made conditional on consistency with the EU's net-zero emissions target for 2050".
Esther Asin, the director of the WWF's European Policy Office said the EU must "stick to the course it has committed to for the sake of our future health, livelihoods and wellbeing. People's welfare in the longer term is inextricably linked to the health of our environment and climate. A truly ambitious people-centered European Green Deal must be part of the response and will leave Europe better equipped to tackle the ongoing climate and biodiversity emergencies."
"As soon as the immediate crisis has passed however, and attention moves to reflating economies, that is the time to ensure that clean energy, transport and smart infrastructure is at the heart of a longer-term stimulus," says Michael Liebreich, founder and senior contributor at BloombergNEF. Taking the car industry as an example, Liebreich advises against bailing out car companies with cash, rather he says car makers would be better supported with measures to boost demand for electric vehicles by requiring food delivery and online shopping companies invest in an accelerated switch to electric mobility. "No bailout should benefit industries or business models that are not viable in the coming low-carbon world - such as low-cost airlines, coal-fired power generation, or uneconomic operations in shale oil and gas, oil sands and deep offshore oil."
Frans Timmermans, the EU Commission vice-president in charge of the Green Deal said on Twitter - "When better days come - and they will - we will be more determined than ever to protect our people and our planet."
The full article can be found on Euractiv.com
To me this serves as hope that leaders are acknowledging that it is not an option to go on as we are and that the world we rebuild after this pandemic will be a cleaner, brighter more forward thinking one.
On the first World Earth Day in 1970, 50 years ago today, 20 million Americans rallied for anti-pollution measures, if only we had taken action then, the world might be a very different place today.
Let's not waste any more time.