Climate risk will continue to pose serious problems - and opportunities - after the devastating COVID-19 crisis
by Lewis Panther, FINSIA
That was one of the conclusions of the panellists on FINSIA’s second webinar of the year that focused on climate.
More than 500 people from around the world watched the debate between Chartered Banker Institute CEO Simon Thompson, Climate Policy Initiative director Dr Angela Falconer and Global Impact Investing CEO Giles Gunesekara.
They were speaking on the day that the UN’s environment chief Inger Anderson said COVID-19 was a clear warning shot from nature and naturalist Sir David Attenborough said that climate still posed a greater threat to humanity.
Will the sheer scale of the short and medium term challenges we face from COVID-19 mean that climate will take a backseat, was a question posed to moderator Simon Thompson towards the end of the session.
Giles Gunesekara said that the COVID-19 crisis was an awful tragedy, but added that “it will go away” with a sense of optimism.
Though he did acknowledge there would be similar devastating consequences in the future if we do not taking assertive action on climate.
He said: “I think what the Corona crisis is revealing to a lot of people is there's a lot of similarities with the fact that people are getting locked in their homes, not able to travel, not able to holiday, not able to go out to cafes and restaurants and public places.
“This is all what could be happening if we continue on the route were are going down because of climate.”
Moving on to the ability to deal with carbon emissions that are contributing to climate-related problems Giles said there was technology available to reduce them.
“This technology is already around,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to reverse the effects of the emissions combining it with positive renewable energy.
“So this is an interesting little window into our world.
“If we don't do anything about climate because not only will be locked in and have shortages we will have increased temperatures, rising sea levels and all those other environmental factors that go with it.
“So we've gotten really positive.
“The technology is there and the willingness to change I think will definitely increase post this crisis.
“But it's definitely not going to do it immediately.
“There is just way too much happening at the moment. People are naturally worried about their health, worried about their jobs, worried about the economy.
“While people are very focused on those aspects and rightly so, there's not going to be a lot of movement on climate, but I think as we come out of this it will be very, very positive.”
Dr Falconer also acknowledged the similarities between what could be happening in the future because of a climate crisis with what is going on now because of COVID-19.
“We've been ringing the alarm bell about the climate with a 10 to 20 or 30 year horizon,” said Dr Falconer.
“It’s so interesting though to see what's happening when a crisis like Covid hits.
“It’s fast forward to the present day and brought into all of our own homes and now affecting all of our lives.
“The parallels are interesting.
“The reality of what the economic impact is going to be is quite uncertain. What impact that will have on pots of funding available for sustainable developments is uncertain.
“The commercial technologies continue to be supportive, but will the economic crisis that will follow the health crisis impact all the concessional capital that’s available to support research development and deployment of the next phase of new technologies.
“That would be a concern of ours.”
But the 2008 economic crisis was followed with green stimulus packages, Dr Falconer said, adding: “We should be thinking about what kind of future we want to be built and how we can integrate sustainable development to the investments that follows out of the economic crisis that will ensue now.
“On a positive note we've all seen how we can work at home as well. So a lot of the knowledge based economy can reduce our impacts, our own carbon footprint as well.
“So I think we'll see changes on how we work and how we use space as well as urban centres. There's a lot of opportunity there to reduce emissions, which is great.”
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