While the COVID crisis presents the United States with a host of health, economic, and racial justice issues, climate scientists and some politicians are bringing attention to its implications on climate change.
On June 17, the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum hosted a webinar panel of experts offering insights climate change policy in the face of the pandemic. Linda McAvan, Executive Director of European Relations for the European Climate Foundation; Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University; Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Senator from Rhode Island; and Ted Halstead, founder, President and CEO of the Climate Leadership Council discussed the opportunity for governments and the private sector to play an active role in addressing the causes and effects of climate change. Within the context of the pandemic, they asserted that now is the time to consider policy solutions that focus on addressing the growing global need for energy while reducing emissions.
The dramatic decline in energy demand has been a major concern for the renewable energy, coal and fossil fuel industries, which experienced significant losses in employment due to the pandemic. Therefore, experts recommend that an economic re-emergence of the industry will need to be centered on resiliency. In a clean energy future, resilience means securing reliable and environmentally sustainable practices in energy industries and employment.
In response to the employment and job decline brought about, greater investments in education that prepares the workforce for jobs in clean energy and “greening” industries will be essential. While the transition to jobs and employment in clean energy is a long-term goal, community level strategies and programming such as tree planting and composting will be equally important in the short term. Agriculture and the financial sector are also expected to shift investments away from fossil fuels. This will pivot employment away from the coal industry, in particular. With these changes in mind, major energy companies are beginning to shift toward cleaner energy sources, and many are working to develop new business models entirely.
As funding and stimulus bills continue to emerge, energy industries will need strong corporate leadership and marked demand for climate action. Coupled with the growing public interest in climate change, politicians are recognizing the importance of proactively investing in solution oriented policies. While the current administration poses a series of hurdles toward progressive climate policies, recent stimulus packages and relief funds demonstrate widened examples of what Congress is truly capable of.