Green Recovery after Covid-19
Date: July 9th 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm and caught all humanity by surprise, putting it in a position that nobody has consciously expected, much less planned. The hints of something like this happening had collectively been pushed aside, out of reality and out of consciousness. The focus had been on issues that were predictable, manageable, that could be dealt with more or less routinely, and whose results are more easily achievable, appealing, and bring immediate, especially financial gains.What had already been evident was quickly verified: the extent to which man-made systems are interdependent and the extent to which modern civilisation depends on them. Meanwhile, human dependence on nature, the environment and climate has been utterly neglected and ignored, to the point that people have fallen prey to their own false belief that it is all just about local phenomena that can and will never affect them. The impacts of human actions have simply been denied. Now suddenly, after taking decades, even centuries to build, nearly all the systems have been thrown into a state of instability and emergency, most of them with no chance of ever being fully restored.
One of such systems is energy, a vital part of modern civilisation’s activity and one depending on nature, the environment and their resources. This became acutely evident during lockdown, with cleaner air, cleaner waters, and less noise. However, as this was only a brief spell, it could not avert the inexorable long-term environmental and climate changes. Instead, it merely laid bare the extent of the impact of humanity on its surroundings, and the extent to which this can limit and stop it.
The Energy Council of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SASA) regularly discusses national and other energy issues. The Council is also part of the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) and its bodies that deal with relevant energy issues.
The pandemic has underlined the need for a debate about fundamental energy issues, technologies and skills that are and will be required. It has emphasised the need to step up and give more weight to the search for answers to the energy transition and decarbonisation riddles that had been under discussion for years with no specific results in terms of clear basic pathways. Partial solutions have confidently and complacently been given mass appeal even if they cannot be made into an integral whole. The pandemic has urged quicker, more careful considerations, and quicker planning of activities. More recently, a new wave of infections has created a new compelling reason to broaden the frame of thinking and abandon some detrimental practices.
After several iterations and rounds of discussions, the EASAC working group has agreed on and issued a concise harmonised commentary. In it, the group focused on the knowledge already present and applied across Europe, as a foundation for an environmentally and climate friendlier energy industry. Titled ‘How can science help to guide the European Union’s green recovery after COVID-19’, the commentary examines all European energy sectors, sources and technologies, as well as the European energy landscape and its co-existence with the global landscape as its only possible premise.
Condensed in the commentary, the group’s discussion, its analysis of the present situation, and its initiative to develop European energy pathways can be summarised as follows:
- The recovery of the energy industry and its future development must build on efficiency and maximise the potential for synergy with other activities. Giving environmental and climate aspects more comprehensive consideration, such an approach has a proven track record of creating more jobs and increased long-term cost savings.
- The economic changes arising from the pandemic have put at serious risk a number of activities that are closely related to energy and energy businesses or assets. As remedial actions are being adopted and the lives of these assets are being extended, their role should be considered above all from the point of view of the environment and climate. It is vital to prioritise the areas of energy use.
- All energy strategies and programmes should be re-considered and updated in terms of environmental and climate impacts, and their implications for society. All national strategies that are part of the EU-wide strategy should also be re-examined.
- The EU has developed the technologies that are key to reaching environmental and climate targets. Their use and future development should be stepped up to achieve global leadership. It is because of this that the EU should maintain its level of ambition in COP26 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Glasgow 2021) and COP15 of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (Kunming 2020).
- Political decision-makers should translate knowledge and knowledge development more thoroughly and effectively into energy development strategies, at national and EU-wide levels.
The commentary is based on a consensus achieved from a wide range of opinions and standpoints: MORE HERE. Reaching the consensus was a special challenge, demonstrating that Europe's diversity is both a great opportunity and advantage.
Dr. Franc Žlahtič, Member of EASAC and SASA Energy Council
Prof. Dr. Alojzij Poredoš, Chair of SASA Energy Council
The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Energetika.NET.
This article is available also in Slovene.