How Have We Seen Environmental Activism and Policy Making Change Since the Pandemic Started?

The Climate Crisis is as immediate as the pandemic, but not affecting us on the same way, on a day-to-day basis. Some countries have put climate change initiatives to the side in order to implement COVID-19 relief strategies. For example, the delay of the COP26, a follow up to the Paris Climate Accord of 2015. In addition, there has been a drop in jobs in renewable energy. Since installation jobs were put on hold, people were no longer were buying renewable energy. Most companies, in general, can no longer spend the same amount of resources on environmental policies because of a decrease in income due to COVID-19. In the United States, the Trump administration continued to roll back environmental rules during the lockdown. In China, provincial officials are pushing to build new coal fired-power plants, in hopes of a desperate economic boost that comes with construction. 

While the focus has changed, governments are still introducing environmentally minded policies: In May, EU policymakers proposed an 826 billion dollar recovery package aimed at transitioning the continent away from fossil fuels, by expanding wind and solar power, retrofitting old buildings, and investing in cleaner fuels like hydrogen. Paris and Milan are adding miles of new bike lanes. London has increased congestion charges on cars traveling into the city at peak hours. Officials in Berlin have discussed requiring residents to purchase bus passes to make car travel less attractive. With COVID, climate activists can’t flock to the streets to the same degree as they once could. However, environmental activism is far from gone, it has simply moved online.

“Every crisis presents us with opportunity to grow. The coronavirus crisis has ultimately taught us how to have solidarity with our community… not only our local community but our global community.”

-Xiye Bastida,  Youth Leader and Climate Activist

Where Do We Go From Here?

In the past, carbon emissions following economic dips have risen. For example, the financial crash of 2008-09 led to a drop in carbon emission by 1.3%, but shortly thereafter, in 2010, they were at an all-time high. With environmental restrictions lightened during the pandemic, there is no denying that the economic bounce back from Coronavirus will be damaging to the environment. We can already see this happening with the CARE Act which allows companies to neglect environmental regulations while recovering from the virus, with no end date. 

Ultimately, we are in need of a change in the narrative surrounding climate change. For instance, white, affluent men who live in the global north need to focus more on intersectional stories, particularly those of indigenous women in the global south. As we have seen during the pandemic, science and human behavior matter. We have to look at the data and at how our individual, as well as global action, has affected the COVID-19 crisis, and apply that to the, just as immediate, climate crisis. The return from COVID-19 could be a pivotal moment for a positive environmental change, and we have to ensure that it is prioritized over a swift economic recovery. We have the tools and proven solutions to help us avoid extensive global warming. COVID-19 exemplifies that prioritizing something is merely a matter of economic and political will. 

“Climate Justice in the Time of Covid-19: 5 Lessons From Women and Girls Leading the Fight.”

“6 Unexpected Connections Between Coronavirus & Environment.”

“COVID-19’s Long-Term Effects on Climate Change—For Better or Worse.”