If there was one positive to take from the impact of COVID-19, it was the marked decrease in emissions and pollution, as industry around the world ground to a halt. However, as these industries ramp back up into production scientists are observing a return to pre-COVID ways.

Many are calling on the pandemic as a wakeup call to further reduce our environmental impact, with some experts now fearing an increased focus on economic recovery will push environmental concerns to the back burner.

“How do you get that economic, environmental, and socials equation around sustainability working for us?” – Chief Executive, Environment Protection Authority SA, Tony Circelli

So what can COVID-19 teach us for the future?
  • The behavior change barrier has been broken. We now know we can take big steps to do things differently and explore solutions that may have previously gone unconsidered.
  • The workday commute may have changed forever. There are ways even individuals can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels by embracing new ways of working.
  • A “see-saw” approach to economic growth and environmental impact may no longer be suitable. We need to search for ways to decouple our growth from fossil fuel emissions.
  • And finally, if we do make change successfully, how can we maintain it without falling back into old patterns.
Where to from here?

As we continue into the recovery phase of COVID-19 there will undoubtedly be opportunities for policy makers around the world to tap into the experience of the pandemic. Many scientists continue to highlight environmental change as the major crisis for this century. The lessons we have learnt from the COVID-19 crisis will put us in good stead to use our new experience and knowledge to make big positive changes and make them stick.

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