The coronavirus pandemic is causing economic havoc.
But it can also offer an opportunity to carry out ambitious climate-friendly policies. Governments can enlarge their interventions and expand their policies to climate areas.
This may seem a stupid statement; governments are assuming huge debts and are too swamped with the coronavirus crisis to open another battle front.
Well. Is it so? Think twice.
Climate change raises threats and disruptions that far exceed those of coronavirus.
Delaying the issue of climate emergency, instead of taking advantage of the opportunities raised by the pandemic, is to ignore what’s at stake and human psychology and priorities.
In so-called normal times economic growth has always taken precedence over climate emergency, and most people tend to reject climate policies as expensive when not unrealistic (something that the coronavirus pandemic is dismissing, by showing what’s really expensive and realistic).
On the other hand, the present crisis is providing good opportunities to advance with climate policies.
There are now thousands of small and big companies – including, for example, big car companies – making ventilators and masks and other material to address the pandemic – an example that could be transferred or relocated to environmentally friendly areas (we should not expect that those same companies can return to business as usual in the next months; that will take several months if not years).
Meanwhile the crisis will generate high levels of unemployment…
And if so, why not trying to take advantage of these opportunities and minimize negative outcomes by rearranging an economy in crisis in order to better respond to the climate emergency?
Reconverting part of the companies and some economic sectors stricken by the coronavirus pandemic to climate policies would not be easy. It would require policies and plans that are not easy to design.
And it would also require governments invested with new functions and a new agenda.
But that’s the only way. We can’t expect the markets to solve the coronavirus pandemic or the climate crisis.
On the other hand, the role of the state would not have to involve direct intervention, and the spending of much more money.
Let’s consider, for instance, the case of Norway, a country with a sovereign fund of one trillion dollars mostly allocated according to profit goals (something that is a little shocking, to put it mildly).
Why isn’t this fund addressing the climate issue as a major priority? Why isn’t the Norwegian government requiring the fund managers to do so? Is it so difficult to accomplish?
And why aren’t the big banks and private funds, whose investments are largely frozen with the crisis, pondering actively environmentally friendly areas?
Consider for instance the example of the new UN special envoy for climate action and finance – the ex-governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. His role is to mobilize private finance to address climate goals. But will he be able to accomplish his purposes in a high degree, without extended his mandatory powers?
No. Of course not. And the question that should be asked is: is it so extraordinary or difficult to increase Mark Carney powers in a time of crisis as the one we are living? No. It’s mostly an issue of regulatory powers.