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Jam tomorrow? Corona and climate emergency

A blog musing about the corona virus and the climate emergency

Governments have declared a climate ‘emergency’.  But it doesn’t feel like it.  The UK Government plans to issue a climate action plan shortly and has stated that no new internal combustion engine cars can be purchased from 2035, but that can hardly be described as an emergency action.  If your building is on fire, you phone the fire brigade to come immediately, not to help them to plan their visit to you next week.

Sadly it has taken the corona virus to remind us what governments can do in a real emergency.  Restrictions on travel have been placed by an authoritarian government in China and now by democratic Italy.  Carbon emissions from China have fallen 25% this year due to the closure of heavy industry and reduction in travel.  Air pollution in the cities is much improved.  And, companies in Europe have been reminded of their dependence on international commodities and supply chains.

Meanwhile, companies like BP have set climate targets for 2050 – to be net zero from their operations (extraction) and to halve the climate impact arising from the products they sell (like oil). Unfortunately, this is bordering on meaningless.  The average Chief Executive lasts no more than two years, not sure how long the average corporate plan lasts but companies are continually changing and reinventing themselves – takeovers, mergers, expansions or even collapse.  What we need from governments and from business are actions for this year, interim targets to 2025 and long-term inspirational targets to 2030.