Coronavirus: Decarbonisation essential to government business bailouts, anthropologist says

A DECARBONISATION pledge should be the condition for any government bailout of business due to coronavirus-related financial difficulty, leading anthropologist Dr Jason Hickel told Redaction Politics.

Mr Hickel felt the world’s economic response to Covid-19 offered a chance to introduce revolutionary changes to global environmental policy.

This comes as satellite imagery shows a huge reduction in air pollution across the world as economic activity plummets whilst people stay home to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Hickel said: “Governments will be releasing emergency funds and bailing out companies, both large and small. 

“We can choose to harness this opportunity for an ecological revolution, by using stimulus packages to fund a Green New Deal, and by ensuring that bailouts of firms of any size are contingent on concrete plans to decarbonise by 2030.”

The world’s leading climate scientists have warned this date is crucial if global warming is to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C and save millions from drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty.

Many EU countries such as France, Italy and Denmark called for the bloc to commit to large greenhouse gas emissions cuts by 2030 earlier this month, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change conference, due to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Britain became one of the first countries in the world to enshrine a commitment to becoming carbon neutral into law last year, but only by 2050.

Mr Hickel said: “People are realising that the living world can recover with extraordinary speed as we slow down economic activity. It is much more effective than any other policy.”

“This is an important lesson. After [the outbreak] is over, rich countries can choose to shift to post-[GDP] growth models and build an economy that is organized around human welfare rather than economic growth. 

“We can scale down unnecessary industrial activity, [such as] SUVs and arms, while introducing policies to make production more rational and efficient.”

Growing demand for luxury SUV vehicles was found to be the second largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions between 2010 and 2018 by an International Energy Agency analysis last year, cancelling out any gains made by more sales of electric-powered cars.

With many now working from home, Mr Hickel also believed that the crisis showed the need to shorten the working week, with many studies suggesting the move could boost productivity, improve work-life balance, and help cut air pollution.

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