Cleaner air, dirtier beaches . . .
Multiple reports came out last week suggesting that the current health crisis is good news from an environmental perspective. Satellites show that slowed economic activity and stay-at-home lifestyles have drastically reduced air pollution, notably in China and Northern Italy. But the pandemic is also causing a medical supplies waste issue: streets and beaches in Hong Kong and Japan are strewn with used face masks and gloves. COVID-19-related protective gear and biological waste is beginning to pose a challenge for countries most affected by the virus, especially developing Asian countries, creating tertiary threats to the environment and public health.
A potential detriment to the long game against climate change . . .
The International Energy Agency’s (EIA) executive director, Fatil Birol, said last week that “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.” It also seems unlikely that governments will turn to clean energy to help ‘restart’ their economies as non-renewable energy remains the norm and the more attractive economic option, particularly as oil prices continue to drop. Investments in clean energy infrastructure projects are likely to be delayed, just as sales of more-expensive electric vehicles are likely to slow.
Canada to support hard-hit oil-and-gas industry . . .
Recognizing that Canada remains dependent on the fossil fuel economy, for its part Ottawa is set to announce a C$15-billion bailout of the oil and gas sector sometime this week. The Government of Alberta has already announced tax relief to oil and gas producers. But even if the current crisis only leads to short-term gains for the environment, it will likely spur broader discussions on the environmental effect of global supply chains and regular human activity.
- The New York Times: Watch the footprint of coronavirus spread across countries
- The Guardian: Coronavirus poses threat to climate action, says watchdog
- The Globe and Mail: Ottawa prepares multibillion-dollar bailout of oil and gas sector