Environmental activists around the world are calling for a “Green Recovery” after the coronavirus pandemic ends, to address the even larger crisis looming over us: climate change. Everything they are saying is true. We can’t return to conditions as they were before the crisis – we need to cut carbon emissions to zero (as well as sequester existing carbon), and create clean energy infrastructures. But can we really rely on our governments to make these transitions?
Milan and Mexico City have agreed to add new bike lanes, and cities like New York and Seattle are widening pavements for better pedestrian access. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is proposing higher carbon prices, and countries around the world are discussing additional investment in green energy. But new walking paths and higher carbon taxes are not going to be enough to halt this climate crisis. Even this economy-slowing pandemic, which will cause a reduction in overall emissions by 4-8% in 2020, does practically nothing to tackle the long-term problems of climate change.
China has still been building coal-fired power plants, on top of its $1 trillion “Belt and Road” initiative, a huge carbon-intensive project to connect 65 countries for easier trade. Countries like Germany and the UK have been giving out handouts to polluting industries. The U.S. has halted multiple environmental regulations. In Brazil, deforestation has increased by more than 50%. A recent University of Oxford study argues for a green stimulus package as a way to “deliver large economic multipliers,” repeating the same economic logic that got us into this problem in the first place.
Capitalism, with its drive for exponential growth and ever increasing profits, will never be compatible with a sustainable planet. As long as profit is the driving force of the global economy, care of the Earth will never be the priority it needs to be to save life on this planet. Governments may add more accessible bike paths, or invest in certain green technologies, but they will not eliminate the destructive industries upon which so much of our infrastructure and economies rely. Only the workers in these industries, along with the solidarity of other workers around the world, can do this.
Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Fridays for Future protesters demonstrate in Berlin.