There is good news for the green economy
Despite a turbulent summer, we shouldn't lose faith in our ability to tackle the climate crisis, argues Green MEP Molly Scott Cato
Wildfires ravaging parts of the Arctic are now burning at unprecedented levels. Following torrential downpours, a dam wall threatens to burst and submerge a community in northern England. And July 2019 has made history as the hottest month globally ever - at least until the next record, which is surely just around the corner.
It is easy to despair and to believe we are rapidly running out of time to tackle the climate emergency. But amidst the gloom there are rays of sunshine. Beams of light which are good news not just for the environment, but also for green sectors of the economy.
For a start, solar power. A new report from the EU Commission says that converting areas within the EU that currently support coal production and coal fired generation to solar panels could provide more electricity, while providing employment for those who currently work in the coal sector. The report concludes that the 240,000 people working in coal-related jobs in the regions studied could transition to 135,000 construction jobs and 124,000 jobs involving operation and maintenance of solar PV systems.
Meanwhile, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is set to turbo-charge the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables. It has vowed to end all subsidies for oil, gas and coal infrastructure projects by the end of next year in order to align its strategy with the Paris Agreement climate targets. The new Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has also supported calls to turn parts of the EIB into a ‘climate bank' which will help fund a ‘green deal', something she has pledged to introduce in her first 100 days as Commissioner.
There are also positive moves in the transport sector. Germany's Green Party has proposed an end to all domestic flights by 2035; a future in which trains will totally replace planes. While the policy is aspirational at this stage, support for the Greens continues to grow and as the country's leading party they are likely to have substantial influence over the shape of policy.
Meanwhile the inexorable switch to electric vehicles makes solar and wind much better long-term investments than oil. Recent analysis by BNP Paribas Asset Management indicates that for the same capital outlay, new wind and solar energy projects, in tandem with battery electric vehicles, will produce six to seven times more useful energy than will oil at $60/barrel for petrol powered vehicles. The analysis concludes that were we to build our energy system from scratch today - aside from the environmental and health benefits - economics alone would dictate that electric vehicles powered by wind and solar-generated electricity would be the way to go.
Perhaps most encouraging of all, is the fact that public opinion is beginning to transition too. A recent poll finds that 71 per cent of British people say climate change is more pressing an issue than Brexit.
The school strikes for climate and Extinction Rebellion have undoubtedly helped shift public opinion and mobilise people into action. Politicians are struggling to keep up; businesses are responding, but nowhere near fast enough.
There is still a long way to go to save the planet for Greta Thunberg's generation, but it is clear we are moving ever quicker in the right direction.
Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for South West England and Gibraltar
She Tweets at @MollyMEP
Article & image source: BusinessGreen