At press time, 43 states have issued stay-at-home orders as the coronavirus pandemic keeps developing. Here in Colorado, we are under lockdown through April 30th. My family in Virginia will shelter in place until the beginning of June. Many of us are aware of the personal challenges this brings, especially to those who have been laid off or furloughed. Unprecedented 10 million Americans filed for unemployment in the past 2 weeks, and this week’s numbers could set the record even higher. Nearly 6 out of 10 Americans don’t have enough savings to cover $500 in emergency spending—which means that a missed paycheck immediately puts them at financial jeopardy.
With the stay-at-home orders in place across various states, many of small businesses have had to shut down as well. And in the states that there isn’t an established order yet, many people are still erring on the side of caution and choosing to stay home. I’ve been trying to do what I can for some of my favorite small businesses here in Colorado. I’ve placed take-out orders where I could and purchased e-gift cards for future purchases from the stores. However, there is only so much I can do with a decreased income right now. I know this rings true for many of us. When the economy suffers this much due to a crisis, it is time for the government to step in.
There have been many crises over the last few decades: the Great Recession, the climate crisis, and now the COVID-19 crisis. After a crisis, the government usually introduces some form of relief package to families and businesses to give the economy a jump start. But the allocation of this relief fund in the past has primarily helped the fossil fuel industry, due to big companies lobbying to get compensated for any missed profits, which only furthered the climate crisis. After the financial crisis in 2008, emissions dropped briefly by 1.4 % the following year; but by 2010, there was a 5.9% increase in emissions as the relief packaged kicked in. Today, many of us are hoping that the money will be instead allocated to projects and sectors that are helping our planet rather than worsening one of our current crises.
Helen Mountford, vice president for climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, believes that by investing in various green projects, the governments of the world could start healing the economies of the world from the COVID-19 crisis while also working on slowing down the climate crisis. The worse-case scenario is that in hopes of revitalizing their countries, world leaders will choose to invest as done in the past further exacerbating pollution. This will only lead to more health problems down the line with citizens breathing in polluted air.
The best-case scenario, however, is reason to cautiously hope. Mountford states that “bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in net global economic benefits.” In other words, governments would invest in things like renewable energy projects, high-speed trains, electric vehicles, and fiber-optic infrastructure. Not only would investing in a green stimulus relief package create jobs while avoiding worsening the climate crisis, but low-carbon developments and companies can get a long-term boost. Mountford specifically points out that companies that are committed to 100% renewable energy have better net profit margins and earnings than those that do not. Investing in these projects would bring an estimated 65 million new jobs and revitalize the economy, all while preventing further damage to the climate. This is not the time for quick fixes, governments should be signing relief packages that will benefit generations to come, economically and in terms of health.
Many are pushing for a green relief package while the decisions are still being made in congress. A group of academics and a few company directors wrote a letter on Medium that you can actually sign! If you are interested, click the previous hyperlink to read further about the group’s purpose and requests. The letter outlines different green programs and industries that the group believes would be the best beneficiaries of the relief fund. I wholeheartedly recommend everyone to read this letter and see for yourself whether the plan is something you can support. If not, pick apart what parts you do agree with and if there are any other suggestions you might have around investing the relief fund for this crisis in green projects, and reach out to your city or state representatives. We have a chance to speak up right now while these decisions are being made. Let’s seize the opportunity and make a difference.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash