Help the environment and the economy

Our last blog highlighted numbers that should give us heart amidst the COVID-19 pandemic – numbers describing the great wave of support being offered up by public and staff.

As we adjust to a new way of living, there are other figures reshaping our world view.

The International Energy Agency is predicting an 8% drop in carbon dioxide emissions this year, which will help combat climate change.

Car journeys once considered essential no longer seem so important. People are walking and cycling more. Pollution has reduced.

That is not to ignore the inestimable human tragedy of COVID-19 – but in rushing to rebuild our economy, it would be a mistake to simply go back to where we were.

A new study, to be published in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy, suggests that a green coronavirus recovery would be better for the health of both the economy and the planet.

It’s pleasing, then, to report that a Net Zero Vision for Aberdeen was unanimously agreed at today’s Urgent Business Committee.

A commitment to greening our activities as a local authority and as a city was the central theme of this year’s budget, and the Net Zero plan outlines how we will move towards being carbon neutral.

We have already made the case for Aberdeen leading the way in transitioning to renewable energy but need the Scottish and UK Governments to support that aspiration along with the private sector.

Increasing electric vehicle charging infrastructure, harnessing hydrogen as a power source, building energy efficient council housing, training people for jobs in the green economy – we are already showing what’s possible.

But without the backing of national government, Aberdeen will be exposed to the economic ravages of COVID-19. Indeed, another report for the Urgent Business Committee warned the financial impact could be anywhere between £28 million and £90m without support.

Officers will bring back proposals to the next meeting on June 30th for maintaining vital services and a balanced budget position.

Combating climate change will remain part of our response. It has the potential to deliver jobs as well as clean air.

COVID-19 has given the world a massive jolt, revealing our vulnerabilities and the extend to which lives are inextricably linked. Climate change is doing the same.

We have to respond to any global threat at all levels –  internationally, nationally, locally and as individuals. So let’s come out of this pandemic wiser and stronger and ready to Build Back Better.