Defining a new normal – Covid-19 and the Climate Emergency
Michael our CEO was recently asked to present some thoughts on the implications of the Covid-19 emergency on Scotland’s response to the Climate Emergency. You can read a summary of his key points here or watch the full presentation below.
Scotland is at a crossroads with two very different routes ahead. You could describe the two different destinations as two different interpretations of the word “recovery”. The economist would see recovery as getting GDP, jobs and other economic measures back to where we were before. However a doctor would see recovery as getting back to a place of health and wellbeing. This difference begs the question, how healthy was our society, economy and environment before Covid-19 hit? What does a true recovery look like?
At most crossroads you have some traffic lights, and I will stretch this analogy by using the red, amber, green tags to hang my thoughts on.
A lot of activity has stopped because of Covid-19 and this includes a lot of climate change related activity which has paused. The Circular Economy Bill has been postponed at Hollywood and the Environment Act in Westminster. Deposit Return Scheme implementation has been delayed, along with COP26, by a year. For those of us calling for urgent change this is disappointing. There is a danger of losing momentum. However, perhaps there is an opportunity too.
Is there an opportunity to rethink? For example can we be more ambitious in what we include in the Circular Economy Bill? We want to see a CE Bill which strongly prioritises and supports activities at the top of the waste hierarchy. A CE Bill that clearly positions resource management over waste management. So for example we would call on the Scottish Government to:
prioritise reuse before recycling and implement practical steps and funding to encourage this
implement a National Reuse Charter to sit alongside the current Recycling Charter
ensure there is an option to set aside for reuse at every local authority site
As we get moving again, is there an opportunity to define a new normal? How do we prioritise a green recovery? What changes have we been forced to make because of Covid-19 that we should lock in because of the climate emergency? How can we balance the economic, social and environmental considerations going forward. At CRNS we talk about the 4 P’s being care for planet, people, pounds and place – how do we create a sustainable future that balances these?
I would like to see us take three key lessons forward from the Covid-19 emergency into the Climate Emergency:
We need to act with boldness and pace in tackling the climate emergency. In the last few months we have seen government act this way in relation to Covid-19, we need a similar level of ambition and urgency to tackle the climate emergency
We need to be willing to change behaviours. There are some changes that have been made because of Covid-19 (increase cycling, less flying, buying local) which we need to lock-in. Other transformations are needed which will require government action to deliver at a similar scale to that which has been demonstrated due to Covid-19.
Lastly we need to listen to the experts. Seeing how our leaders have been led by the science in Covid-19 is a pattern we need to see adopted rapidly in relation to the climate emergency. There is a high degree of consensus but often the scientists have not been listened to and their warnings acted upon.
If we can make these changes I am confident we can forge a green recovery. In some way I hope we can learn these valuable lessons from Covid-19 and increase our ambition and determination to tackle the climate emergency.