While the global lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19 closed down the bustling major cities and improved environmental qualities worldwide, a critical question remained -- will it be sustainable?
In the wake of Covid-19, major concerns which the governments across the world are experiencing are restoring job markets and economic well-being. But this is also an opportunity for us to repurpose our investments towards sustainable developmental practices.
Countries like USA, India, Spain and Germany are already resorting to renewable energy, partly due to past policies and regulation and also to balance the low usage of electricity caused by global lockdown, thereby pushing down the usage of costly carbon fuels.
As Covid-19 finally gets reined in, the governments should act to stop any kind of rebound to burning excessive carbon dioxide for quick economic recovery.
A recent study revealed that the rising temperature as a result of excessive burning of fossil fuels will contribute more deaths than any infectious diseases.
The study further stated that countries such as Ghana, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sudan will have 200 or more deaths per 100,000 people if the trend of rising temperatures remained the same.
The impacts of climate change may seem to be slower than the global pandemics however, the effects are most likely to result in extreme climatic events such as frequent floods, cyclones, etc contributing to economic, social and health crises.
Enhancing carbon sinks and minimisation of carbon dioxide would help to produce economic gains through an improved environment, human health and create more job opportunities.
Forests absorb more carbon dioxide than they release, making them carbon sinks. Plantation of trees across the world is one of the biggest and cost-effective approaches to reducing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to tackle the climate crisis.
Trees can absorb a large amount of carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and store carbon in biomass (trunks, branches, foliage, and roots). Research suggests that a single mature tree can sequester 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and release oxygen for four people to breathe.
Forest covers are being lost in many countries. For example, forest cover in Bangladesh reduced drastically over the years. From 1990-2015, nearly 2,600 hectares of forests disappeared annually.
The forests are mostly being lost due to corruption, ineffective implementation of environmental laws and lack of monitoring. Amid the outbreak of Covid-19, thousands of day-labourers have lost their jobs. These day-labourers can be hired to restore forests, following social-distancing measures. This would serve as an initial steps towards economic recovery through job creation and injection of some funds into the economy. Recently, Pakistan provided jobs to more than 60,000 day-labourers through planting trees in the forest.
Planting trees will help to reduce carbon dioxide however, long-term reduction of carbon dioxide requires minimisation of carbon dioxide. Attaining sustainable long-term economic gains can only be materialised through the adoption of green technology.
Bangladesh has had commendable successes in renewable energy, particularly in solar energy. On average, Bangladesh receives daily solar radiation of 3.82–6.42 kWh/m2, which provides an ideal condition for utilising solar energy.
With an area of 147,570km2, a 10 percent efficiency in the solar energy system would help the country to generate 5.2109kWh units of electricity annually. In 2016, more than six million Solar Home Systems (SHSs) were installed worldwide. Of these, four million were in Bangladesh.
Installation of an increasing number of SHS contributed to a 10 percent rise in employment in the solar energy sector. In Bangladesh, the installation of solar home systems has increased from 25,000 to 2.8 million in the past decade.
This has increased the num¬ber of jobs from 60,000 direct jobs in 2011 to more than 100,000 in 2013. In 2014, installation of the SHS contributed to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by more than 538,000 tonnes a year.
Combined efforts of forest restoration and adoption of renewable energy technology would serve multiple purposes, which includes job restoration and economic and environmental gains.
Currently, the country is contributing less than 0.35 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
According to the Paris Agreement, Bangladesh has not been mandated to reduce carbon dioxide, just like the other developed countries. However, such efforts would help to uphold our image in international climate change platforms.
Also, the reduction of carbon dioxide would help us to enter into carbon trading and use the proceeds generated from such mechanism to meet social, environmental and economic needs.
The author works for BRAC.