The coronavirus pandemic has put a pause on life as we once knew it — and the U.K. Committee on Climate Change thinks the country should turn that pause into a reset that will help protect the planet. As the U.K. gears up to restart the economy, the committee is urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to prioritize transitioning people into jobs that will support a low-carbon economy.
As reported by The Guardian, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) wrote an open letter to the prime minister on Wednesday, May 6. In the letter, shared on the CCC’s website, the committee advises Johnson as to how the government can put funds and resources towards action that will help achieve net-zero emissions (a goal of the Paris Agreement) as the country rebuilds from the pandemic.
“Actions towards net-zero emissions and to limit the damages from climate change will help rebuild the U.K. with a stronger economy and increased resilience,” wrote CCC chairs Lord Deben and Baroness Brown of Cambridge in a letter to Johnson.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change should be integral to any recovery package," the letter continued. "These remain scientific, economic and social imperatives and will only be delivered if ambitious steps are taken during this Parliament.”
The committee suggests the government invest in low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure by retraining workers to: make homes more resilient for the future; build infrastructure that supports emission-free commutes, such as walking, cycling, and working remotely; and plant trees, restore peatlands, build green spaces, and more.
“The pandemic is a sharp reminder that the world’s most challenging crises do not respect borders and require strong collaborative global action,” the committee added. “Our international climate programme on both mitigation and adaptation will be more important than ever. Our credibility as an international leader rests on taking action at home.”
The U.K. is a powerful country with great influence on the rest of the world. If Johnson agrees to some of the committee's requests, he would be setting an example, hopefully inspiring other nations to follow suit.
The COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a public health disaster — but that hasn’t stopped some of the world’s most powerful people from turning most of their focus to the impacts on the economy. So as economies around the world are rebuilt, and people who were left unemployed look to join the workforce, this devastating situation can actually turn into an opportunity to transition various sectors to low-carbon infrastructure.
The U.K. has made several recent strides toward meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. Last week, Britain broke a record when it went more than 20 days straight without using any coal to generate electricity. Additionally, in May 2019, the British government secured funding to plant at least 130,000 trees in urban and urban-adjacent areas all over the country between then and May 2021.
We cannot let one crisis push another crisis to the wayside. If anything good comes out of this tragedy, let it be the end of not one but two crises.
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