The coronavirus lockdown has left people marveling over clean air in Los Angeles and images of African penguins strolling through Cape Town. But emissions will rebound in a geologic blink of the eye. Energy expert Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), gives the world six months post-lockdown to get on track before the planet spirals into irreversible damage.
“This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound,” said Birol.
According to the IEA, governments will spend about $9 trillion globally over the next few months to bail out their floundering economies. Exactly how that money is spent can make or break the planet’s future. “The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond,” Birol told the Guardian. “If we do not [take action] we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages.”
The IEA published its own report outlining plans for a green recovery. This report prioritizes creating more green jobs instead of returning to the high-carbon economy. It also suggests jobs that will reform energy generation and consumption, such as constructing wind farms, erecting solar panels and retrofitting existing buildings to improve energy efficiency.
April saw global carbon dioxide emissions plunge by an average of 17%. Unfortunately, emissions have already rebounded to within 5% of 2019’s levels.
Birol is not alone in calling for a green recovery. Experts all over the world are urging reform. Some countries are listening. The EU has promised to center its economy on a new European green deal. Whether global leaders will follow through on putting their dollars into lowering emissions is not yet clear.
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