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Mixed signals for sustainability

  • by JW

Lower investments in clean energy … banning wildlife trade … massive moves to telecommuting …


There are concerns that the current crisis will end up as an environmental disaster:


Coronavirus poses threat to climate action, says watchdog

IEA warns that Covid-19 could cause a slowdown in world’s clean energy transition

The coronavirus health crisis may lead to a slump in global carbon emissions this year but the outbreak poses a threat to long-term climate action by undermining investment in clean energy, according to the global energy watchdog.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects the economic fallout of Covid-19 to wipe out the world’s oil demand growth for the year ahead, which should cap the fossil fuel emissions that contribute to the climate crisis.

But Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director, has warned the outbreak could spell a slowdown in the world’s clean energy transition unless governments use green investments to help support economic growth through the global slowdown. “There is nothing to celebrate in a likely decline in emissions driven by economic crisis because in the absence of the right policies and structural measures this decline will not be sustainable,” he said.

The virus has stoked fears of a global economic recession and helped to ignite one of the sharpest oil price collapses in the last 30 years, wiping billions of dollars from the world’s largest energy companies.

The economic contagion is likely to stall many infrastructure projects, including the multibillion-dollar investments in clean energy needed to avert a climate catastrophe by the end of the decade.

The year ahead could mark the first time the world’s solar power growth falls since the 1980s, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The analysts on Thursday slashed forecasts for new solar power projects by 8%. It expected sales of electric vehicles to stall too.

Coronavirus poses threat to climate action, says watchdog |


Today’s ‘silver lining’ stories over returning wildlife…

‘Nature is taking back Venice’: wildlife returns to tourist-free city |

… are actually not true – but show our need to share positive stories:

Fake animal news abounds on social media as coronavirus upends life |


We need some real success stories out there:

We aspire to preserve the beauty and wonder of the ecosystem of the world’s largest gypsum dunefield for future generations: 

Sustainability |


Nevertheless, the dramatic situation will undoubtedly have dramatic effects


Could the coronavirus outbreak be sustainability’s big break?

The global impact of COVID-19 is still unfolding as the virus spreads. But there could be a silver lining to the outbreak for China and the world’s sustainability ambitions.

China’s sustainability journey has been one of ‘two steps forward, one step back’. While lauded for the phenomenal progress it has made in areas such as renewable energy and poverty alleviation, China’s developmental path has been riddled with challenges. The country may be famed for ‘China speed,’ but when it comes to realising its ambitious sustainable development goals, China’s size and complexity can mean change does not come quickly. Perhaps, like the ‘airpocalyptic’ days before the central government scrambled to tackle air pollution, what China needs is a jolt to the system, a stimulus that forces swift action.

COVID-19 could be the wake-up call China needs. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which has turned China’s vibrant cities into ghost towns overnight, is now being felt globally, with supply chains disrupted for everything from iPhones to automobiles. Already projected to have a more severe impact than the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, China is now threading a fine line between managing a potentially deadly health epidemic, and keeping its economy afloat.

But while the business world scrambles to figure out how to keep working without the largest manufacturing economy, some positive signals have been emerging for the sustainability community. Here are six:

China’s war on wildlife trade may finally be taken seriously

China’s recent announcement to fast-track a ban on the trade and consumption of wildlife was a direct result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Though the directive is only temporary, the gravity of the virus has shone a spotlight on China’s wildlife trade, raising important questions about the risks and morality of wildlife consumption. Even on China’s heavily censored social media platforms, a discourse on the wildlife trade is allowing for more civic society voices to be heard.

Such bans have never been known to be effective. And while China struggles to enforce restrictions on the wildlife trade, greater ground-up scrutiny may allow for China’s centuries old traditions for exotic medicines to finally be debunked. As the WildAid ad goes: When the buying stops, the killing can too.

The future of telecommuting could allow greater work flexibility across the country

While the trend for remote working has proliferated in recent years, it has largely been concentrated in a small number of sectors. The extended lockdown period, now affecting 500 million people in 48 cities, has inadvertently forced many Chinese enterprises to rethink the way they work while staying productive.

On a wider scale, the move to greater use of video and teleconferencing could help companies review their travel policies. This not only helps save on time and costs, the often overlooked Scope 3 carbon footprint goals under the widely used GHG Protocol greenhouse gas management tool, may no longer be as elusive as they seem.

Could the coronavirus outbreak be sustainability’s big break? |