After a challenging start to the decade, governments around the world are responding to the recent health crisis and proposing their plans to rebuild; and many believe ‘going green’ is the best way forward. On 22nd July 2020, the UK Government committed £350 million to cut carbon emissions and drive economic recovery following Coronavirus. It’s an opportunity to build a better future through a ‘green’ recovery and making more sustainable choices.
“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.” – Milton Friedman
When the world went into lockdown earlier in the year, we saw hugely positive changes to the environment. Carbon emissions temporary fell by as much as 40%, species around the world started to reclaim their space, and household recycling increased by 30%. It was a glimpse into what a world might look like without fossil fuels.
However, whilst nature enjoyed the respite, we cannot hibernate for forever. Systematic changes are needed and coming.
Why do we need a ‘green’ recovery?
Here are some of the many reasons why we need a ‘green’ recovery:
The earth’s climate is regularly changing, as greenhouse gases rise. As temperatures increase, the remaining glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica are melting. Sea levels will rise, and by 2050 it is predicted they will be one to 2.3 feet higher.
The Arctic is heating twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet, with Artic ice sea cover reducing by around 13% per decade. At this rate, Arctic summer sea ice could disappear as soon as 2035.
As well as sea levels rising, our weather will also become more extreme. These changes will impact growing crops, wildlife, and coastal communities in devasting ways.
Although forests still cover 30% of the earth’s land area (but only 12% of the UK), they are disappearing before our very eyes. Around 31,000 square miles of forest are destroyed every year. To put this into context, that’s the equivalent of almost 36 football fields’ worth of trees lost every second because of deforestation.
Trees form a vital part of the bid to slow climate change. We need trees for many reasons, the most obvious to help us breathe. Not only do they absorb the CO2 we exhale, but they also absorb the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are on the rise.
Air and water pollution
Whilst we saw some cities in the UK experience a 60% drop in Nitrogen Dioxide levels during the early stages of lockdown, the 2020 COVID pandemic also highlighted the importance of lowering air pollution. Several studies showed the correlation between air pollution and COVID death rates, with a small increase to air pollution resulting in 8-16% more deaths depending on the region.
Fish became visible in the Venetian canals, and it was declared safe to bathe in the Ganges River in India. However, all of these positive changes remain short-lived if we return to life as it was.
At present, 154,000 people are directly employed in the energy industry, with a further 620,000 employed indirectly. The sector created £30.9bn in value during 2019 for the UK economy and paid around £6.5bn in taxes last financial year.
The ‘green’ recovery bid made by the Government is a step towards being net-zero by 2050. The actions needed to achieve this will generate new job opportunities for many, as well as creating the decarbonisation we so desperately need.
In the meantime, let’s look at how we can do more to keep up this ‘new normal’ and not let the environmental benefits we’ve seen go to waste.
Where can you start to make more sustainable choices?
Most businesses had to adjust to working from home quickly in March; technology allowed this to happen with relative ease, and as a result, 41% of workers intend to work from home more after the pandemic.
What’s more – for many businesses, this time has shed light on processes that could be improved, forced more communication, and resulted in better productivity. Working from home, wherever possible, has increased the sustainability of the business, as well as having a positive impact on our carbon emissions. So, why not consider suggesting more permanent changes?
Not only are the number of commuters reduced as we work from home, but many people also stayed local during lockdown and have turned to walking and cycling more, which is, of course, great for the environment. So, let’s keep this up. Even if it’s not the most convenient option, convenience isn’t always your best choice.
It’s easy to forget the connection between what we buy and how it’s made or what it contains. But, making different choices when we come to shop can make a big difference.
The fashion industry’s textile production is responsible for global emissions equivalent to 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 every year – that’s more than all international flights and shipping combined! And, in the UK, around £140m worth of used but wearable clothes end up in landfill each year. So why not consider vintage shopping next time you want something ‘new’ to wear.
Did you know that palm oil is in nearly 50% of the packaged goods we find in the supermarket? And that palm oil continues to be one of the biggest drivers of deforestation? It only takes a second to check whether a product has used sustainably sourced palm oil, just look for the RSPO certification.
There’s growing pressure on companies to change the way they conduct themselves, as well as an opportunity for new sustainability-centred businesses to provide an answer for consumers looking to make more sustainable choices.
If you would like to know more about how to make your investment choices reflect your values, you can read our previous blog here.
Now that we’re doing most things online think about how you can continue to do this in other areas of your life.
Have you gone paperless yet? Switching to online statements or saying no to that magazine and opting for the online version instead can make a difference to your carbon footprint.
At home, could you switch to a green energy provider? Or if you’re thinking of a car upgrade, consider looking at the hybrid and electric cars on the market.
When it comes to sustainability, knowledge is power. Here are some resources to help:
- The recent David Attenborough documentary on Netflix, ‘A Life on Our Planet’, provides an eye-opening encounter of our impact on the planet, and what we must do to turn things around.
- TED recently launched Countdown, offering educational resources and an option to sign up to hear about their updates as they lead the global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, turning ideas into action.
- Ethical consumer offers an abundance of product guides so that you can learn how to use your money to help build a better future.
If you have any questions about the topics raised in this article or would like to discuss your finances or an existing financial plan, then please get in touch with us and speak to one of our financial planners.