U.S. must join other major powers, including China, India and the EU, to formulate plans for a global green recovery from the coronavirus crisis at the only major international summit on the this year’s climate emergency.
The idea of a green recovery preventing a dangerous rebound in greenhouse gas emissions to levels higher than before Covid-19 is accelerated, but few governments have yet committed to plans.
Failure to do so in the coming months could lead to economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis trap high carbon emissions this would lead to a climate disaster.
Next week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) will host an online summit for the world’s largest economies as well as for developing countries, covering 80% of global emissions. It aims to define plans to boost renewable energy, energy efficiency and other emission reduction projects that would generate tens of millions of green “ready-made” jobs worldwide to replace those lost during of the pandemic.
Dan Brouillette, the US Secretary of State for Energy, will attend, with the Chinese Minister for Energy, Zhang Jianhua, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, and the British Secretary for Business, Alok Sharma, who is president of the COP26 climate talks now postponed until next year.
The key to success will be that governments can subscribe to ecological recovery plans even if – like the United States – they are skeptical about the climate crisis. Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, said: “Even if governments do not consider climate change a key priority, they should still implement our sustainable recovery plan just to create jobs and provide economic growth. The renovation of buildings, for example, is a working machine. “
Birol fears a rerecovery from the 2008 financial crisiswhen emissions fell sharply in the recession, but quickly returned to much higher levels than before, with governments investing in coal-fired power plants, constructing inefficient buildings and implementing road construction projects.
“To stop the rebound, we need to put emissions into structural decline,” he said. This can be done by renovating buildings to use less energy, by building wind farms and solar power plants – which now produce electricity at a lower cost than fossil fuels – as well as by building networks to broadband and other telecommunications networks, and infrastructure for electric vehicles, which reduce air pollution as well as carbon dioxide.
Research has already found that continuing a green recovery would create more jobs and a better return on investment in the short and long term than a return to business as usual.
The IEA summit on July 9 will be the only major meeting of governments to discuss the climate crisis this year, as the UN summit Cop26 has been postponed until next year due to the pandemic. American participation is crucial because The White House withdraws from the Paris agreement, with effect from November 4, the day after the presidential election.
Birol warned that unless governments put in place plans for a green recovery in the coming months, the opportunity created by the closings – which resulted in a 17% drop in emissions in April – will be lost. Emissions are already rebounding faster than expected by experts.
If governments invest in high carbon infrastructure to restart their economies, as many are already doing, the world will be on the right track for more than 3C of global warming, which would be catastrophic.
“The type of energy choices we make now will determine the decades to come,” Birol told the Guardian in an interview. “It will be essential for energy and climate change. If we witness a rebound like 2008, the chances of reaching our climate targets will be much thinner, if they exist. “
The IEA plans to invite civil society groups from around the world to the July summit, as well as the directors general of more than 70 global energy companies, to gain wide in favor of a green recovery.
Birol said the IEA meeting would provide a vital “bridge” between the Covid-19 shock and the UN climate talks next year. Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and other large emitters will also be present.
There was no time to waste, he said, because those who had interests in favor of a green recovery were already working behind the scenes. “I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t want to see this [green recovery], who want to see an unsustainable recovery plan. “