Barely the covid19 curve has flattened and already we’re stuffed with analyses that draw the parallel with the climate crisis. That's understandable. There is however at least one essential difference: we can solve the climate crisis without hurting ourselves.
Even in the middle of this dark corona epidemic, the past few weeks have shown three points of hope. The first one: most citizens care. Faster and more efficient than we could ever have imagined, citizens have begun to change their behaviour. Even if it was difficult, either emotionally or financially. We appear to be capable of not only thinking about ourselves and acting in the general interest. Or as Rutger Bregman observed: most people are virtuous. What a reassurance.
Second ray of hope: when faced with an unprecedented crisis, leadership emerges. A government that allows itself to be advised by experts, it seems to be possible. Local authorities also work overtime to inform and support citizens.
And the economic leadership also flourished. Companies, the banks in the lead, jumped in to bring financial relief to families and businesses by postponing payments.
This tandem of citizenship and leadership is exactly what we need to deal with the climate crisis.
Pulling parallels is never without danger, but in the case of the corona and climate crisis it is difficult to ignore some similarities.
The climate crisis is also about a global health problem. In Europe alone, climate and weather-related events have caused 112,000 additional deaths since 1990, the WHO reports. The organization estimates that there could be 5 million additional deaths worldwide between 2030 and 2050. News bulletins seldom report on these staggering figures.
Another similarity: the time frame in which we have to act is limited. That's hard physics. If we fail to halve CO2 emissions every decade, large parts of the planet will become unlivable, economies will be destroyed and societies will be disrupted.
The future is brighter
You would be discouraged for less. But the biggest misunderstanding is that the climate crisis is going to demand great sacrifices from citizens and businesses. This misunderstanding is often fuelled by well-intentioned campaigns such as Earth Hour. As if in the future we would have to spend our evenings shivering around an oil lantern. Fortunately this is not the case: the future will be better and more comfortable.
Why? Because the transition ensures that your home is insulated and that we save billion euros a year through energy efficiency. It means that we have livable cities in which cycling or public transport are both the safest and the cheapest option.
Our daily lives will be better and our economy more resilient, with climate jobs that will stay here. In this way, the transition can be pivotal in addressing other societal challenges. Think of social inequality. The transition offers an opportunity to redesign our society.
Acceleration is needed
Close to their citizens, cities are the ideal level to coordinate actions. A handful of cities are already at work. But a larger part has barely started. From the guidance of 130 municipalities in implementing their climate plan, we learned at Futureproofed that they often face the same problems. The appointed environmental or sustainability officer is on his own. There is hardly any budget or time available. Many cities, intermunicipal companies, provinces and regions work side by side to reinvent the wheel in the form of studies, reporting and monitoring. The necessary knowledge to take action is fragmented. In this way, we lose valuable time. Time that simply isn't there.
The leadership and sense of citizenship that we have seen in recent weeks prove that we, as a society, have the necessary ingredients to deal with the climate crisis after corona. Let's just do it now.