The world is currently going through an unprecedented crisis which is brought by the coronavirus (or Covid-19). While the crisis has rattled every micro and macro aspects of our lives to the core, it offers some opportunity as well to reflect and get prepared for future crises. One of the grave crises which are already looming ahead is the climate crisis. In essence, with environmental degradation over the years, we are already under the threat of significant loss due to the risk of climate change.
Since we are not experiencing the adverse climate impact as rapid as the Covid-19, we keep ignoring. However, our ignorance in accepting the risk and procrastination in taking proper preventive measures make the crisis neither disappeared nor less damaging.
In Reality, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the world's renowned body of climate experts have made it clear that climate change is already happening. They cautioned that we have roughly ten years left to keep global temperature rise to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celcius, beyond which even half a degree will be substantially catastrophic for human lives around the globe.
While we have less time in hand to respond, Covid-19 is teaching us a valuable lesson about how to 'flatten the curve' to buy time in controlling immediate negative consequences. Of course, the timeline differs from the coronavirus crisis, and dissimilar strategies are needed to tackle the climate crisis. However, the bottom line is same – sensible actions are must to ensure having a chance to fight to check the global temperature, thus avoiding the utmost catastrophic consequences of climate change.
While multi-lateral strategies are required from the policymakers, one crucial aspect they need to prioritise in the planning and strategy development is the carbon dioxide emissions that are related to Energy consumptions, especially from the traditional sources like coal and gas.
Production and consumption of energy is the largest source of global CO2 and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. So, it is crucial to tackling the energy-related emission, which can be attained through achieving 'energy efficiency'.
The concept of energy efficiency refers to the attempts (i.e. using technology that requires less energy) made to reduce energy consumption (or inputs) in obtaining the same level of outputs. By doing so, energy efficiency can ensure lower demand and consumption of energy, thus reducing energy-related emissions.
International Energy Agency (IEA) advocates that accomplishing efficiency in utilising energy alone can save 35 percent of the cumulative CO2 emissions by holding the global demand for energy steady until 2050. Which designates the opportunity to flatten the climate curve despite rapid economic and population growth. Additionally, energy efficiency is not only about global weatherproofing, but it is also about providing an opportunity for social and economic sustainability.
By pursuing energy efficiency measures, governments can provide citizens with more utility services affordably (social sustainability) as well as reduce cost and enhance productivity (economic sustainability). Consequently, even if we are thinking about welfare economy, accomplishing energy efficiency can be a significant leap towards that direction besides saving the world from irreversible environmental deterioration.
While we are ecstatic seeing the recent drop of CO2 level in the air in China or the return of dolphins in the shore of Venice, we need to understand this will not last long. If we truly want to relish the positive aspect of Covid-19, that should be through reflecting the lessons learned during the crisis.
The world leaders should not be myopic on the imminent climate risk any longer. Prioritised policies related to energy efficiency measures should be formulated and implemented to keep the climate change within the earth's capacity (to flatten the curve).
It is worth noting that, unlike the response to the coronavirus, climate protective measures can be implemented without harmful economic disruptions. Instead, such measures can ensure social and economic sustainability. Therefore, it is the high time to learn, reflect and act to save mother earth. It is quite a way to go, but if we start, keep going and going to the right directions, it is not far away.
The author is a PhD candidate and research assistant at the Department of Finance and Banking, Faculty of Business and Accountancy, University of Malaya.