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Lancashire Times
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Tom Burgess
Features Writer
9:54 AM 9th July 2020

How Coronavirus Can Shock The World Into Environmentalism

Lockdown has provided an opportunity for genuine reflection and the time to take stock of our individual situations. Fitness challenges, reading challenges and the uptake of new hobbies have flooded social media. Beyond these individual discoveries has come a sense of how the world,as a whole, has changed due to lockdown. The climate crisis is actually very similar to the Coronavirus as it will also change the daily life of a significant chunk of humanity. At Lancaster University the issue of climate change has been taken seriously as shown by the data that came out in May that showed that Lancaster University produces more renewable energy than any other university. Lancashire, as a whole, has faced difficulties with fracking from companies such as Cuadrilla which refused to stop drilling despite extensive protests. The fracking was only stopped in late 2019 when a report by the ‘Oil and Gas Authority’ showed that it would be impossible to predict the probability and magnitude of earthquakes caused by fracking. This victory shows that together progress is possible even if it occurs slowly and incrementally.

Flights cancelled

While the region united to stop this particular environmental issue it is important to look at the bigger picture too. Currently, 57 major UK charities, including the National Trust, Women’s Institute and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, have called for the UK government to only allow bailouts with carbon emissions targets attached to them. This would be an opportunity to get closer to the target of carbon emissions which was set by the Paris Accords in 2016. France has shown that a ‘green deal’ is possible when dealing with Air France in ensuring that certain flights that went the same way and distance as high speed trains were cancelled. In this way air companies and their employees can be saved and global emissions levels can be lowered. During lockdown the nation has been more united than it has been for decades- collective suffering of all has brought about a feeling of community and selflessness.

The US problem

The US has been removing environmental legislation in an attempt to stimulate the economy and China has been building more coal plants. Neither of these decisions have been made with much thought to the future of the planet. Against this rather bleak backdrop comes an opportunity. During lockdown in early April the world saw a collective 17% drop in carbon emissions as travel came to a standstill and many companies and businesses were forced to close. This accounts for the biggest drop in emissions since the Second World War- emissions in the UK dropped by 31%. Even with these dramatic drops in emissions the world is not on track to hit the targets set in the Paris Accords. More needs to be done. There are many suggestions out there such as carbon taxes and incentives to switch to renewable energy sources which I cannot go into fully here but that are worth reading about. There is the possibility for this disaster to provide the rock bottom that the world needs to build towards change that could see a greener and more united world- let’s not waste this opportunity.