One of the positive outcomes emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic is the dramatic improvement in air quality the world has observed from reduced fuel emissions and air- and water pollution. Within weeks of India imposing its nationwide curfew, the Himalayan Mountains could be seen clearly from as far as 200 km away for the first time in 30 years; satellite images show a dramatic change in the clarity of the Venice lagoons, with fish once again visible in the canals. And the reduction in harmful gases (carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide) in dense urban centres like Manhattan, Seoul and Wuhan are projected to have positive health benefits (potentially resulting in fewer premature deaths) for those most vulnerable to respiratory illness.
While these are all encouraging signs, experts are quick to warn that behavioural changes from the global lockdown are not a long-term solution to the impact of climate change on our environment. Many expect these benefits will disappear quickly once the economy re-opens, which calls into question whether this is a pivotal point for the world to consider how re-entry should be designed. To continue the momentum that this unprecedented crisis has kick-started (the ‘silver-lining’ as it were) scientists, government and business are calling for a thoughtful approach to re-entry that takes a longer-term view of climate change. This was also the view expressed by Bill Gates last month in his observation about how encouraged he is at the thought of “innovation and science and the world working together” to address climate change.
At this pivotal juncture, corporations should consider what role they wish to play to support these measures. While changes in public behaviour may continue to have positive influences as the world adjusts to our new “normal” until such time as a vaccine is developed (e.g. continued reduction in harmful air pollutants from less road and air travel), the opportunity to leverage the world’s consciousness about climate change has never been greater. For corporations searching for the next strategic opportunity for investors, channeling both intellectual and financial capital towards initiatives with the potential to influence change could be the salve the world needs right now – the hope for our future and for that of generations to come. Investing in technology to better support carbon capture, renewable power generation, new agriculture strategies and cleaner modes of transportation are opportunities that have never been put in the spotlight as clearly as they have as a result of COVID-19.
If there is an opportunity to be gained from this global crisis, it is one where collaboration amongst government, scientists and investors could reap great benefits for climate change through greater enablement of clean technology solutions.
Written by Sylvia McGratten
Strategic Advisor, Canadian Regulatory Technology Association