Can pandemic help solve climate change? Follow Climate After Covid | Climate News

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The time of Covid has seen radical change become a realistic possibility

Claire O’Neill,
former UK minister for energy and clean growth, is one of our guest panellists on the show from 8pm. Here’s her take on Climate After Covid…

Dark
orange skies flecked with deep black clouds. Burnt out cars. Forests turned to
charcoal. Houses that look like they’ve been carpet bombed. If you’re not
convinced that climate change needs addressing, look at the pictures of
California after this week’s fires. It’s a hellscape that is now
all-too familiar to residents of the Golden State. Across the world we see
similar stories of extreme weather, from Russia to Japan, Australia to Brazil. 
It’s a
cause for worry, but not despair.

One of the
things to give us heart is reading the findings of the UK Citizens
Climate Assembly, which reported back to government today.  These were
normal citizens chosen randomly, coming from all walks of life, all across the
UK.  

Presented with the facts – even in the midst of a global
pandemic – the British public showed clearly that they wanted their government
to tackle this issue and came up with strong backing for some key
measures. 86% supported a ban on new gas boilers from 2035, there was
also backing for a ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by
2030-35 and the idea of offshore wind was seen as a great idea.

Some of
these measures can look quite radical, but
consider this: when a net zero emissions target was floated at the 2014 UN climate talks, it seemed crazy
and fossil-fuel rich governments and lazy CEOs dismissed it as not necessary or
achievable; fast forward less than six years later, the concept of net zero
emissions is a reality, both for many governments, including ours.

As energy and clean growth minister, I was proud to drive forward our legislation
for a net zero economy by 2050 – the first industrialised country to do so. Now
over 120 countries have either adopted such a target, or are discussing it. And in the corporate sector, many of the world’s leading companies have set net zero by 2050 plans – or even sooner – or are planning to go carbon
negative – and putting the governance and investment needed behind these plans.

The solutions to get to a net zero goal are more available
by the day. And the question is not should we cut our emissions but why
wouldn’t we want to take advantage of vast new global opportunities from this
shift? Due to UK government policies, the
price of UK offshore wind is less than a third of what it was a decade ago and
competitive with new fossil fuel generation. Electricity from onshore wind or solar
could be supplied at
half the cost of gas-fired power in just five years’ time.   

The latest ONS
data
is clear: the UK’s low carbon export sector is thriving, valued at
£46.7nn in 2018, up from £40.4bn in 2015. So, who would knock
a sector that employs 224,800 people and offers compelling re-growth story for
northern UK industrial heartlands like Hull, Middlesbrough and Aberdeen?

The priority of governments in 2020 globally has – naturally – been the health of citizens and saving their economies. But it’s clear that the way we get out of this mess is not by investing in
technologies of the past, or by destroying a natural environment that – according
to scientists
– protects us from vector diseases. It’s by focusing on
“Building Back Better” and working together in the public and private sectors
to innovate and drop the costs of the game changing technologies like hydrogen
that we need. It’s about accelerating the work of financial regulators
and leading banks and investment firms to price climate risk better – and
reward the shareholders of companies shifting to sustainable strategies. And it’s about listening to people, like those who were part of the climate assemblies to hear their calls for better education, better leadership and new
technologies. What was a radical dream of climate repair can now become a
mainstream reality.

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