As the world economy is reeling in the wake of widespread government shutdowns and restrictions, along with consumers’ changing habits, many employees have been laid off or seen their hours reduced.
At the same time, environmental conditions are improving drastically, with people traveling less and reduced output creating lower levels of air and water pollution.
Can these two sets of occurrences be reconciled?
On the one hand, massive economic disruptions and employee layoffs pose a threat to financial security for millions. On the other hand, global pollution has ramped up in recent decades as air and water quality has suffered, posing its own public health threat both in the short-term and into the future.
‘The Battle Has Started’
Do economic development and environmental protection, however, need to be pitted against one another for one to succeed? In other words, is there a zero-sum competition between the two?
Economist Jean Pisani-Ferry penned a piece last month, stating that “the battle has started,” in reference to those who see the coronavirus pandemic as a signal to strengthen environmental shifts in contrast to those who see it as an opportunity to strengthen the commercial industry, which has been hit by business closures, supply chain disruptions, and shifting individual behavior.
Many believe that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous weak spots concerning public health and the economy, and that coverage of positive changes to the environment will change how we think about addressing environmental issues going forward.
Several economists expect the economic crisis to cause citizens to reduce their willingness to think of the long-term health of the planet and future generations, while the presidential administration in the United States is seeking to roll back environmental regulations in what is seen as an attempt to spur business growth.
EU’s Green Deal
One place we may look to consider this contrast is the European Union’s Green Deal. Presented in December 2019, the Green Deal is a long-term plan to improve environmental sustainability measures. The initiative seeks to achieve zero net-emissions throughout the E.U. by 2050, creating a shift in the continent towards reducing the industrial and technological impact on the environment.
The Green Deal also has an intermediate goal to cut emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030. The E.U. is aiming to curb emissions across the continent through legal means as well by passing legislation that triggers legal action and economic sanctions for members that do not achieve standards.
Paris and Berlin have added their names to a growing list of EU capitals asking for the European Green Deal to be placed at the heart of the EU’s post-pandemic recovery plan.https://t.co/E8qZnko75x
— Frédéric Simon (@FredSimonEU) April 11, 2020
This would serve as a major transition for industrialized member states, as they attempt to progress into low-emission countries. The E.U. is pressing widespread shifts in how organizations operate, seeking to incentivize private actors to change their methods of production and improve technologies that have less environmental impact.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, explained that this push is a new perspective on growth, as the bloc is looking to replace old modes of production based on fossil fuel with new energy sources, agricultural production methods, and urban development.
As we look at the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on both the global economy and the climate, it is important to step back and understand that these two issues should not be in competition with one another, but instead go hand-in-hand.
Hopefully, the long-term E.U. goal to reconcile economic development with environmental protection – or similar attempts in any region, country, or locality – are not severely threatened by fears resulting from the pandemic. No one knows what the future holds, but we all need to consider the long-term health of ourselves, our economies, and our environment.
Environmental protection measures can only realistically gain support and take shape if citizens and organizations, both public and private, can work together to reduce waste, pollution, and the overall impact we have on the natural world.
The economic shocks caused by the coronavirus pandemic must not cloud our long-term environmental considerations. How we treat our environment and how we interact with the natural world are important to public health and the economy, with poor air quality and climate change threatening the lives of citizens and their jobs across the globe.
The E.U.’s Green Deal is a commendable long-term plan for improving economic development while reducing harmful human impact on the environment. We should see the current state of affairs as an opportunity to see the importance of plans such as these.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.