Recent research by management consulting firm McKinsey and Company has highlighted the emergence from the Covid-19 shutdown as a pivotal moment in the climate emergency.
The team says the post-pandemic recovery is a “decisive” period that will either spur millions of jobs in the sustainability sector, cutting emissions, or generate significant consequences for the environment.
At the last count, an estimated $15 trillion had been forked out globally by governments to shield economies from the Coronavirus pandemic.
In April, at the 11th international Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, Secretary General Antonio Guterres renewed calls for “brave and visionary” leadership to tackle the existential threat of climate change.
At that same meeting, the first to be held virtually in the midst of the pandemic, managing director of the International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgieva, called on governments to
“do everything in our power to promote a green recovery”.
“In the minds of some, the health crisis and the great lockdown needed to address it mean that we can push the pause button in the fight against the other existential crisis we face—our changing climate,” she said.
“Nothing is further from the truth. We are about to deploy a massive fiscal stimulus which can help us address both crises at the same time.”
McKinsey and Company researchers agree, saying a swift return to business as usual will be environmentally harmful, as seen after the 2008 global financial crisis, where emissions reached a record high.
“The period after the Covid-19 crisis could determine whether the world meets or misses the emissions goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which were set to limit global warming to 1.5°C to 2°C,” according to the researchers.
“Achieving those goals is a distinct possibility. A low-carbon recovery could not only initiate the significant emissions reductions needed to halt climate change but also create more jobs and economic growth than a high-carbon recovery would.”
The researchers have set out a blueprint for policy makers to deliver an effective low-carbon stimulus program and say adopting the plan could generate up to three million jobs.
The plan pushes for retrofitting houses for energy efficiency, scaling up electric vehicle manufacturing and installing smart building systems.
It also calls for more renewables, increasing infrastructure for bicycles and reinforcing the energy grid. It also building carbon capture and storage infrastructure, however.
“This is the pivotal moment for policy makers to unite their economic and environmental priorities to improve and sustain the well-being of individual citizens and of the planet as a whole,” the researchers say.
“An econometric study of government spending on energy technologies showed that spending on renewables creates five more jobs per million dollars invested than spending on fossil fuels.”
The researchers state the majority of jobs created would be in sectors where work is in jeopardy, and could pull less-skilled workers and young people, hit disproportionately hard by the lockdown, into work.
“The employment boost from this stimulus package would be substantial,” the researchers say. “1.1 million to 1.5 million new job years of employment at the low end of the spending range and 2.3 million to 3.0 million at the high end.”
“By our estimates, these measures could help cut CO2 emissions 15 to 30 per cent, from current levels, by 2030,” the researchers add.
“Such a decrease would account for a good portion of the 50 per cent emissions reduction that is considered necessary to achieve a 1.5°C warming pathway by 2030.”