‘A terrible situation but a big opportunity’

Reclaiming the city: Goats prancing through the streets of Llandudno in Wales. © Getty

Is there a green way out of this pandemic? As lockdowns begin to lift, minds are turning to how we want the post-corona world to look – and many want it to look as green as possible.

The former governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has added his voice to calls for industrialised nations to invest in a greener economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

He said that the pandemic was “a terrible situation, but there was also a big opportunity” at the end of it.

Many experts have pointed out that one of the few upsides of the pandemic has been lockdown’s positive environmental impact. Air pollution has plummeted. Carbon emissions are set to fall by 5.5%.

This isn’t enough to tackle the climate crisis by itself, they argue. But the question now is not when will life return to normal, but what “normal” do we want to return to?

For many, the answer lies in a Green New Deal, aimed at achieving system change and tackling both inequality and the climate crisis. The term can mean slightly different things in different contexts, but the main ideas remain the same.

Firstly, it means only getting energy from renewable sources in the future and retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency.

Secondly, it means protecting and expanding ecosystems, such as forests, that take carbon dioxide out of the air.

Thirdly, it means ending dependence on businesses that pollute the environment.

In the UK, activist Jonathan Neale has even proposed the creation of a National Climate Service – an organisation like the NHS, funded by the government, which would employ people to make this a reality

Is there really a green way out?

Green light

No, argue its critics. These ideas are utopian, a pipe dream. They would put millions out of work, destroy prosperity, and cost too much.

Absolutely, argue its supporters. The question is not, is there a way? But rather, is there the political will to make this happen?

You Decide

  1. Do you think governments should give money to big oil companies (like Shell and BP) affected by the coronavirus crisis?


  1. Create a poster making the case for a Green New Deal. What are the main ideas, and how would you argue them? Pitch it to your household. How many people can you convince?

Some People Say...

“Change takes courage.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US politician, the youngest-ever woman in the US Congress, and one of the main people behind the US Green New Deal bill

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Green New Deal idea has been around for a fairly long time, in different forms. A group of academics and activists in the UK published a report called A Green New Deal, in 2008. The US Green New Deal is a set of ideas to address climate change and economic inequality, taking some inspiration from the 2008 report, but relates more to the US.
What do we not know?
What politicians will prioritise in the coming weeks and months. Will those in control work to get things back to “business as usual” as quickly as possible – ignoring calls from many to take this unprecedented opportunity to change things? Or will they use the breakdown of normal life to try experiments that would have seemed impossible three months ago?

Word Watch

Fallen at great speed.
System change
Changing the structure of society, rather than focusing on individual behaviour.
Renewable sources
The most popular natural sources of energy include the Sun, wind, water, or ocean waves.
To add to something that has already been built.
Impossibly perfect.
Pipe dream
Something that will never happen.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.