Why Can’t the Coronavirus Recovery Be Green?

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(Bloomberg) --

With the world still in the grip of a global pandemic, many are nevertheless looking to an eventual recovery and wondering: Why can’t it be green?

Of course, a recovery is likely a ways off. There are now more than 500,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and more than 23,000 people have died. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a rare public rebuke this week, scolding nations for wasting time in the fight against the virus. “We squandered the first window of opportunity,” he said.

Despite the failure of many countries to actively confront the coronavirus, governments around the world are already passing massive stimulus packages to combat its economic effects. Central banks are also  pulling every possible lever as unemployment rates soar. 

The sums involved are enormous, but so far stimulus packages have largely been a climate disappointment. The U.S. Senate bill, for instance, completely cut support for the wind and solar industry. When Democrats nixed $3 billion in oil purchases for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Republicans retaliated by stripping out clean energy provisions. Airlines will be eligible to receive federal loans and direct cash assistance if they give the government an option to take an ownership stake. The legislation doesn’t include emissions limits for airplanes that were sought by House Democrats, according to one Republican.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, continues to sell new oil leases on public lands at fire sale prices. 

European recovery plans look slightly greener. Heads of government will consider a proposal that would make their emergency measures compatible with the principles set out in the bloc’s Green Deal, according to a European Union document. 

At the moment, prices in the European carbon market have dropped byalmost one third since the beginning of March, reducing the economic pressure on companies to rein in fossil fuel use. In the short-term, the drop has made some coal plants on the continent profitable for the first time since November. In the long-term, it may hobble Europe’s climate goals. (Two of the inventors of the market say it’s too soon to begin worrying.)

The virus is beginning to hinder our understanding of the planet, too. How? Well weather forecasts rely in part on data collected from planes. With flights all but halted in many nations, meteorologists have seen a steep decline in what used to be 700,000 daily weather observations from aircraft. As a result, there could be a dip in your local television station’s forecast accuracy. Maybe just carry that umbrella all the time.

Fortunately, both NASA and the European Space Agency have continued to deliver climate data from satellites. The data feed the scientific models that track sea ice melting, water levels rising, and forests disappearing

Josh Petri writes the Week in Green newsletter recapping the best reads and key news in climate change and green solutions.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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