Dr Sam Gardner (Chair) on the impact of Covid-19 on the Climate Emergency

This piece first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on 22nd April 2020. 

 

As the world is rocked by a global pandemic, it seems counterintuitive to turn to the crisis of climate change as a source of hope and purpose. Yet, building a better future, the resilient, fairer future that the response to climate change demands of us all, remains an imperative that must guide us as we emerge from Covid-19. Right now we remain in the eye of this crisis and every effort must be made to protect people and help the most vulnerable.

However, we must plan for the city’s recovery and look to rebuild our lives and the economy and in doing so, we must make sure we build a ­better future – back to normal will not be good enough. It is with this focus on building a better future that the Edinburgh Climate Commission met for the very first time last week.The Commission brings together climate expertise and experience from key sectors and includes ­community, civic society, ­business, youth and academic voices that have all committed to work together to help ensure Edinburgh leads the response to the climate crisis. We must not lose sight of this goal or we risk stumbling from a crisis measured in days, weeks and months to one that will span decades and generations.

In fixing a city-wide target of ending our contribution to climate change by 2030 Edinburgh has set itself a stretching ambition. We must now turn high ambition into transformational action backed by communities and business from across the city. We know that without significantly ramping up action on climate change we will not only still be contributing to runaway climate change but will have failed to realise the many benefits to public health, community resilience, job creation and the local economy that the net zero journey offers us. In the last month business travel patterns have probably shifted for good – months of effective digital remote working is surely going to change habits and must mean we don’t just walk away from online technology and back to red eye flights or expensive commuting habits.

Let’s lock in the surge in active travel we have seen in recent weeks so when our options for moving around the city increase, the short walk or family bike ride on safe streets is still the number one choice. These are just examples of changes our collective response to a global crisis has shown is possible, and in a timescale we thought was unimaginable. Others include building community resilience, the importance of local businesses, our dependence on food supply, and valuing wellbeing alongside economic growth. It is up to us all – businesses, individuals and communities – to ensure these changes which ­support a fairer, greener and stronger economy are embedded into our ­collective future.

The Edinburgh Climate Commission will be an independent voice for climate action, rooted in the needs of families and communities across Edinburgh as we look to ensure we don’t move backwards as we come out of this crisis.