Our way out of the economic impacts of COVID-19 should also be a way to combat climate change



My latest lockdown pastime has been watching Marvel’s “WandaVision” and geeking out a bit on the many fan theories.  Without spoiling things, the premise is layers of the notion that “things are not what they seem”, and the open question is who the big bad behind everything might actually be. 

That notion that there might be a greater menace behind the present danger is a classic comic book and film trope.  Yet, it really hit home to me in today’s world of COVID-19 quarantining as we see the ravages of the climate crisis looming, with freak cold snaps knocking out Texas’s natural gas systems, as just one example. 

The fearful reality is clear that even as we face a once-in-a-century pandemic, the bigger crisis remains. 

On that front, governments have had to walk and chew gum as they fight the pandemic. 

In the United States, the Biden administration is all hands on deck to get their vaccination program up and running, but they also took the time to ensure the country is back in the Paris climate accords, and moving forward on green energy, fuel-emission standards, and other historic and aggressive actions.  There’s even talk of actually doing an “infrastructure week”.

Here in Canada, the Trudeau government made the politically courageous decision to announce the carbon pollution pricing rate would increase in the coming years, but they also announced a major infrastructure funding plan of their own. 

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has promised a major stimulus program to fund “building back better” to the tune of nearly $100 billion coming out of the pandemic.  As part of that overall package, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna announced a “down payment” in the form of an additional $15 billion on transit and active transportation funding, with a permanent fund of $3 billion per year, and an immediate injection of $5.9 billion for “shovel-ready” projects. 

This announcement is good news for our communities and especially for commuters and the climate. 

Edmonton Mayor Dan Iveson said of the announcement, “Permanent transit funding offers cities long-term predictability to finally be able to deliver transformational system expansion and drive durable economic growth across our country.  The recovery support here can be massive.  It can be the centrepiece of the job-creating, emissions-reducing recovery that Canadians are looking for.”  There’s that link between COVID-19 and the climate again — and, crucially, the economic impact of addressing both. 

Speaking of mayors, I recently read former Toronto mayor David Miller’s new book, Solved: How the World’s Great Cities are Fixing the Climate Crisis.  In it, he outlines a variety of inter-connected approaches that should be undertaken to address environmental protection and climate action, from energy retrofits to transit to waste management.  He illustrates an array of approaches from major global cities to demonstrate how those approaches can be actioned, with a particular focus on what he led in Toronto. 

Miller expressly argues in his preface, “there is evidence that environmental destruction — which worsens climate change — contributes to the increased risk of global health challenges… Scientists have been warning us about such events for a very long time — a changing climate has the ability to devastate people and nature.  And the potential consequences are serious indeed.” 

Further, Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris provides an afterword to the book, which ties in the pandemic and climate change, writing, “I truly believe we can meet the goals of the Paris Agreement… regional, national, and local governments are mobilized to cope  with the global COVID-19 pandemic, and we need to be united and keep our minds open to new ideas, taking the best practices and making them universal, challenging ourselves daily to make our cities healthier, more equitable and better places to live… I am hopeful that we can build this future — not only because it is possible but because we cannot fail.” 

Our way out of the economic impacts of COVID-19 should also be a way to combat climate change, by building complete communities that are resilient, liveable and energy efficient.

Photo Credit: youmatter.world

More from Jonathan Scott.   @J_Scott_

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