The COVID-19 curve has barely flattened and already we’re stuffed with analyses that draw its parallel with the climate crisis. Completely understandable. However, there is at least one essential difference: how to solve the climate crisis without hurting ourselves.
Even in the middle of this dark corona pandemic, the past months have shown three points of hope. The first one: most citizens care. Faster than we could ever have imagined, citizens have begun to change their behavior even if it was difficult both emotionally and financially. People are capable of not only thinking about themselves. We can act in the general interest. As Rutger Bregman observed in his book "Humankind: A Hopeful History,” most people are virtuous.
What a reassurance 🤝
The second ray of hope: when faced with an unprecedented crisis, leadership emerges. It seems to be possible that governments allow experts to advise them. Local authorities also work overtime to inform and support citizens.
And third: the economic leadership also flourished. Companies, especially banks, jumped in to bring financial relief to families and businesses by postponing loan and credit card payments, for example, or offering emergency grants.
This tandem of citizenship and leadership is exactly how we need to solve the climate crisis.
Pulling parallels is never without danger, but as far as the COVID-19 and climate crisis go, it is difficult to ignore some similarities.
The climate crisis is also a global health problem. In Europe alone, climate and weather-related events have caused 112,000 additional deaths since 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports. The organization also estimates that there could be an additional 5 million worldwide deaths related to the climate crisis 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 cold and hard Chemistry. 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 thanks to a greener transition ☀️
You would be discouraged for less, but the most significant misunderstanding around how to solve the climate crisis is the myth that it will demand great sacrifices from citizens and businesses. This misunderstanding is often fueled 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 green transition ensures that our home is insulated and that we save a billion euros a year through energy efficiency. It means that we have livable cities where cycling or public transport is the safest and cheapest option.
Our daily lives will be better and our economy more resilient, with climate jobs here to stay. In this way, the green transition can be pivotal in addressing other societal challenges. Think of social inequality: this transition will offer an opportunity to redesign our society and create a better future for us and for the planet.
How to solve the climate crisis: 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 their own.
There is hardly any budget or time available.
Many cities, inter-municipal companies, provinces and regions work side by side to reinvent the wheel in studies, reporting, and monitoring. The necessary knowledge to take action is fragmented. In this way, we lose valuable time.
A time that simply isn't there.
The leadership and sense of citizenship that we have seen in the past months prove that we, as a society, have the necessary ingredients on how to solve the climate crisis after COVID-19.
Let's do it now.
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