Carpe Diem!

June 2020


 It has been a joy to see clear, unpolluted blue skies; to hear birdsong rise above the traffic noise and to connect with the beauty of nature on our own doorsteps. And while we’ve been doing that, daily greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) dropped 17% in April!


They may well end the year 8% lower, but sadly this just goes to show that the abandonment of cars and air travel is not going to be enough to solve the climate crisis. Even if we continued this painful limit on our lifestyles, we will still have more than 90% of the carbon reduction to achieve to be on track to our Paris target.


Nevertheless, this is a unique, once-in-a-pandemic opportunity for governments to steer their economies away from carbon dependency at a lower financial and social cost than ever before. As they spend trillions getting their economies going again, they have the opportunity to invest in climate friendly infrastructures and sustainable businesses for the future.


There is a historic precedent for this. Amazingly, it was while WW2 was still raging that a new world was being mapped out. There had been a resolve to make ‘a world fit for heroes’ after the Great War, but it never happened. This time things would be different. In 1942, William Beveridge published a report describing ‘universal provision’, which was to become our welfare state and beloved National Health Service.


In 1944 our own MP, Rab Butler passed the Education Act, which abolished fees for all state secondary education and introduced grammar school which offered social mobility to the children of factory workers and miners for the first time. 


It’s not as if we could afford it then. The war had bankrupted us and the USA was reluctant to extend us continuing peacetime aid. They gave the Atlee government a hard time of it, but there was a powerful conviction that we couldn’t afford not to invest in a better future.


It has shocked us that global finances, economies and businesses turned out to be defenceless against one microscopic virus. Our hubris has led us to believe that science and technology would prevent such catastrophes, and no doubt they will eventually, but not before irreparable damage has been done and lives lost. 


Both the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have warned that “global warming will likely accelerate the emergence of new viruses.”  There is a connection between this pandemic, biodiversity loss and our relationship with the whole of natural world. If we are to prevent more pandemics, we need to “tilt to green”.


The question facing us all now is whether there is the political will for that. Do we want the extremes of wealth and poverty that have been exposed by this crisis to continue? Do we want rush back to the same levels of pollution and fossil fuel dependency? 

Or are we ready now for the fundamental changes in our economy that will give our children some hope of an inhabitable planet? It is our children who will be footing the bill for this pandemic for the rest of their lives, after all.