Millions of people affected by lockdowns across the world have been wishing for the COVID-19 pandemic to end and for things to return to normal. That includes daily jobs and freedom to travel.
But some experts warned that new global issues could rise after the end of the pandemic. People may travel more often while the government focuses its efforts on economic recovery, all ignoring climate change.
Scientists recently reported that travel restrictions and shutdowns that forced factories to close helped reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality in some countries. But these positive changes may only occur for a short period of time.
As people return to regular daily activities and the industry resuming operations after the COVID-19 pandemic, emissions may also climb back to higher levels. Manufacturers may even take advantage of federal exemptions set during the global health crisis.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in late March announced it will temporarily suspend penalties for polluters affected by the COVID-19 response. Oil prices have also decreased, which experts fear would encourage consumers to buy more gas and drive more often when they return to work, Popular Science reported.
“Without measures by governments, cheaper energy always leads consumers to use it less efficiently,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said in a blog post. “It reduces the appeal of buying more efficient cars or retrofitting homes and offices to save energy.”
To help government leaders manage the economy and climate efforts after the COVID-19 pandemic, Birol and policy experts from universities and think tanks created an environmental bill that aims to guide the government and public in activities as the country returns to regular days.
“We must also begin planning our economic recovery in a way that protects us from the impact of climate change and lifts up workers and frontline communities,” authors of the bill said in a Medium post. “Thus, we propose an ambitious Green Stimulus of at least $2 trillion that creates millions of family-sustaining green jobs, lifts standards of living, accelerates a just transition off fossil fuels, ensures a controlling stake for the public in all private sector bailout plans, and helps make our society and economy stronger and more resilient in the face of pandemic, recession, and climate emergency in the years ahead.”
If approved, the stimulus would be renewed every year and get a funding equivalent to 4 percent of the country’s GDP. The authors said the bill would continue to run until the economy reaches net zero carbon emissions and unemployment declines to less than 3.5 percent.
The funding would go to efforts to improve housing, transportation, labor and manufacturing, energy, agriculture, infrastructure, public lands, public investment and innovation, and green foreign policy.
The policy experts said they are now in talks with some lawmakers in the U.S. about the environmental bill.