Where do Coronavirus and Climate Change intersect? We attempted to answer this broad question during our webinar series COVID-19 x Climate Change co-organised with Factory Berlin, Climate-KIC, BCG Digital Ventures and Dataconomy. Beyond the immediate socioeconomic downturn and the environmental respite provided to nature this spring, what is going to stay with us after the crisis is over?

If you missed our webinars, you can find the links to the replays at the end of this article. Stay tuned on our social media channels @planaearth not to miss any of our events anymore! If this is tl;dr for you, we have selected just for you 5 takeaways from our audience’s questions and the answers from Plan A and all the smart organizations that participated.

In your opinion, what is the top positive impact COVID-19 is having on climate change? The top negative impact?

The drop in global carbon emissions is the top positive impact, but how long will it last? In the past, many social and financial crises have triggered a sudden and impressive drop in carbon emissions. Coronavirus is no different, with a great number of cities in lockdown the planet is watching the GHG emissions dropping, with significantly less air travel (responsible for more than 3% of total carbon global emissions) and fewer cars on the streets.

But we shouldn’t celebrate too early, because the negative impact might come after the end of the lockdown. If history repeats itself after COVID-19, humanity will get back to normal emitting CO2 again, maybe even more than before, forgetting about the Paris Agreement to cope with the economical crisis. This is what we need to fight, the “get back to normal” has to come with a different mindset, one in which people adopt a slower kind of life with a smarter and more sustainable consumption approach and fewer flights. 

Many companies are financially stricken by COVID-19, is there still a budget for emission reduction? What impact will it have on the voluntary carbon market?

The honest answer is that it will depend on the industry. As we are watching the travel industry struggling with the worst crisis since 9/11, especially for airlines and the cruise industry. As a matter of fact, the most important airlines are fighting to negotiate the carbon reduction goals imposed by the European Union in order to survive.

We spoke of community empowerment with Climate-KIC

We understand that many industries, heavily impacted by coronavirus, might have to cut back on voluntary carbon reduction even though that’s not the best for the planet, at least for a while.
As for the industries that are not strongly impacted by the crisis, as many tech companies, we are seeing a great interest in improving company sustainability goals and a will to partner with companies such as Plan A to make it happen.

For the first time in history, physical spaces were closed but everybody who could connected online (Credit: Edwin Hooper)

Do you think the experience of COVID-19 helps push for more radical measures, or everyone will be too exhausted? It proved radical and fast change is possible.

Coronavirus certainly proved that fast and efficient government and social response is possible. The challenge lies in making the world react to the climate change crisis with same intensity but the nature of both crises is different. Unlike climate change, COVID-19 is a crisis affecting mostly developed countries. The climate change crisis needs even more attention and even faster response, but the symptoms are not as clear as the COVID-19 ones. 

To sum up, until the world understands and sees climate change as a bigger problem than any coronavirus will even be, we won’t see any radical change like what we are seeing now.

What will cost more to governments, COVID-19 or climate change?

Climate change will certainly cost more to governments in the long run. COVID-19 as all infectious disease is a crisis with a short to medium lifetime, even though it will have a tremendous negative impact on the world economy, the market will adjust.

Climate change, on the other hand, has been overlooked for many decades and the symptoms of the crisis are not always “on our face” as the ones from a pandemic, which makes even harder to convince governments and industries to act as fast as they are acting in the midst of a pandemic.

This slow approach to solve climate change will create a situation where governments will want to act when there is no time to reverse the problem, and this will cost us more than any pandemic ever will. 

People feel they have to make a sacrifice regarding sustainability. How to make them realise what have they gained (and thus our planet) from this crisis?

Nowadays in developed countries, we are used to a lifestyle of access and excess, this is our normal. It comes in the form of cheap international flights, great leisure activities, fair work-life balance and access to clean water, safe food and decent governments. Sometimes we forget that only about 16% of the world population live in these conditions, excluding the rich folks living in developing countries with pretty much the same living condition.

In this perspective, yes, there is a sacrifice that this population has to make in order to decrease its carbon emissions and live a sustainable lifestyle. Through this lens, we understand that sustainable options offered to us are not available in developing countries. 

Personal choices will always be important and we have to start somewhere, but living more sustainably needs to come in the form of pressuring industries to become sustainable as well.

Want to see the whole thing?

The power of being true to sustainability with BCG Digital Ventures

Covid-19 X Climate Change Webinar with Factory

The Data behind COVID and climate change with Datanatives