Home >Lounge >Features >Climate Change Tracker: Putting Economies First?

As the world enters a crucial few weeks in international efforts to contain covid-19, some pundits are turning their attention to the devastating impact of global recession as a result of the world’s economy basically shutting down. While this may be good news for the environment in the short term, what will happen when the pandemic ends and nations start scrambling to restart their moribund economies? Will the effort to cut emissions and limit global heating receive a setback?

There are optimists, like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who feel that the global pandemic response will change the way governments view international cooperation, for the better. But the opposite may well happen—countries may turn more insular, nationalism may flare up, and any global concerns about the existential threat of climate change could be put on the back-burner. Already, the world’s biggest emitter, the US, has hamstrung climate change mitigation efforts by relaxing fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. The previous regime, signed by Barack Obama, had insisted on an year-on-year increase in fuel efficiency of 5%. The new law, under Donald Trump, dials this back to 1.5%.

Click here to listen to all the episodes from the first season of Mint Climate Change Tracker podcast

This would mean that the US would release an additional 900 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA), announcing this on 31 March, said this “strikes the right regulatory balance". The Trump administration is obviously in no mood to honour international agreements. The severity of the pandemic across Europe could sound the death knell for the EU’s ambitious Green Deal plan for making their economy more sustainable. The EU itself might disintegrate, as the Spanish prime minister warned recently, unless there is sufficient collective resolve in fighting covid-19.

According to the Finnish independent institute Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea), China’s coal burning, which had dipped in February due to the pandemic, returned to normal by end-March. The CREA also says that the drop in CO2 emissions in 2020 due to the pandemic will likely be minimal, between .5-2.2%. Meanwhile, the crucial Glasgow climate change summit due in November has been postponed till 2021. So enjoy the blue skies and birdsong, for the future of climate change mitigation looks bleak.

Follow the column with #MintClimateTracker. Click here to listen to the first season of the Mint Climate Change Tracker podcast hosted by Bibek Bhattacharya

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