Lockdown a chance for a better climate?

People all over the world are affected by the coronavirus and the associated restrictions. At the same time the lockdown is a positive development for the climate. Nitrogen dioxide levels in major southern European cities such as Madrid and Milan have gone down by around 50 percent, for example. The difference can even be seen from space. Commentators discuss whether the pandemic could have a lasting positive impact on the environment.

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Handelsblatt (DE) /

Crisis could bring green revolution in transport

Permanent solutions for greener mobility are needed now, Handelsblatt hopes:

“The priority now is not just to figure out ways of getting around in the next few months without contributing to the pandemic - or in other words helping people move around as freely as possible without catching the disease until there's a vaccine or medicine to treat the virus. We have to think far beyond that. How do people want to live in the future? How do they want to move around? ... The corona crisis could provide an opportunity to think about things that have been ignored until now. Reversing transport habits means more than just making small improvements to bus and railway networks, adding a few bike paths that get filled up with parked cars, and switching from combustion engines to electric vehicles.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Climate protection must go on

The Dutch government has announced that it will go ahead with plans for climate protection measures despite the corona crisis. A supreme court ruling, among other things, forced its decision. NRC Handelsblad praises the fact that a clear policy is now being pursued:

“It's a good signal that even in exceptional times of crisis the rule of law is being respected and judgements enforced. ... A side-effect of the corona crisis is that the prescribed emission levels will be reached quickly anyway as a result of the drastic decline in economic activity. But of course this will also involve structural measures such as limiting emissions from coal-fired power plants. This can now be carefully prepared while keeping in mind potentially harmful economic consequences.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Sharing economy will collapse

The sharing model will be one of the casualties of the crisis, sociologist Massimiliano Panarari explains in La Stampa:

“In the new world order that we can now foresee, there are some predestined victims. One of them is the sharing economy, because in a society in which the social distancing regime has come into effect the sharing of goods and services becomes extremely problematic. Firstly, because of legal regulations and hygiene rules. Secondly, because of the side-effect, which has already been denounced by psychologists: with the fear of contagion, mistrust and suspicion spread like viruses. Therefore there will certainly not be as many people who are willing to share a car or use someone else's home.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Don't put shareholders before the environment

The French government has announced a seven-billion-euro rescue package for Air France. Although the aid is linked to compliance with environmental protection measures it goes in completely the wrong direction, Mediapart puts in:

“Do we want a world where air transport will be as massive as in the past, even though the explosion in traffic over the past three decades has had a catastrophic impact on the environment? Or do we want an orderly withdrawal from such air traffic, for example favouring shorter trade routes for the transport of goods? ... With such a colossal financial aid package - the largest yet for a single company - the government is ending this debate before it even got started. And it's doing it in the worst possible way: by setting aside long-term strategic questions and focussing solely on shareholders' short-term financial interests.”

The Times (GB) /

Create incentives

Now is the time for a more climate-friendly economic restart, writes The Times:

“The government will meanwhile be providing a stimulus to consumption when the lockdown is eased by allowing the budget deficit to rise. It should take this as an opportunity to provide tax credits for renewable energy and electric vehicles, and invest in low-carbon infrastructure and building insulation. For businesses, the coronavirus crisis has forced a change in working habits. Instead of commuting to offices, employees have had to work remotely and speak to their colleagues through virtual conferences. Those outcomes should stick. They will reduce fuel consumption when normal times return.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Return to a destructive pre-corona economy

Doctors' surgeries, DIY stores, garden centres and hairdressers in Switzerland will be allowed to reopen today, Monday. The state is once again putting citizens and the environment at risk, complains a group of artists in an appeal to the government published by Le Temps:

“Knowing that we can no longer count on you to protect our lives, those of our senior citizens and children, saddens and frightens us. ... A return to an economic model that is destroying our environment, making us sick and continually working to extinguish life everywhere on our planet is taking place. ... For this reason we ask you, esteemed members of the Federal Council, to continue to support us. We need you. We need your doctors and scientists. We need your sense of responsibility and your compassion.”