Pandemic will have little effect on climate change, the UN says

Despite significant gains during the Grand Containment, the COVID-19 pandemic will have very little long-term impact on the climate change crisis, a new United Nations study concludes. The situation is fueling debate about the need for a “green” economic recovery in Quebec.

Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:00 AM

Henri Ouellette-Vézina

In early April, daily global greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 17% compared to the same period in 2019. The planet has never emitted so little greenhouse gases since 2006, illustrating the “strong growth” of energies in fossils over the past 15 years, according to the report.

Indeed, emissions have increased rapidly. In June they were already only 5% from the previous year, a jump of 12 percentage points. Researchers expect emissions to fall by just 4% to 7% by 2020, depending on the “ongoing trajectory of the pandemic.”

“This report shows that while many aspects of our lives were disrupted in 2020, climate change continued unabated,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization.

Energy consumption

Ursula Eicker, an environmental engineering specialist at Concordia University, is not surprised by these UN statistics. “The infrastructure has clearly not changed. Only our habits, especially in transport, have changed. The crisis has not done enough, ”she reasoned.

According to Ms. Eicker, the revival of the economy represents an opportunity for Quebec to begin a review of the built environment.

Quebec is in a very good position with its hydropower. Reducing the energy consumption of buildings, rethinking the way we build our cities, insulating more and using less, that should be the main priority of this recovery.

Ursula Eicker, environmental engineering expert at Concordia University

“Quebec needs a long-term energy reduction plan. It’s a lot of money, but these investments will last for decades, ”she continues.

François Geoffroy, of the De Planet collective, is inviting himself to Parliament, agrees. “Science tells us to reduce our consumption by about 75%. Quebec could get away with 50%. This is where to go. We must set a clear ceiling and stop supporting energy-intensive projects, ”he emphasizes. According to him, the only way to curb the potential increase in greenhouse gases after the pandemic is to “consume less and produce less”.

For his part, the strategic advisor at Coop Carbone, Vincent Dussault, confirms that the congestion in Montreal is already back. “We went very low during incarceration, but here we are about 10% below normal. It’s been several weeks since it’s going back, ”he says, adding that teleworking also contributes to the rush hour desynchronization. However, he said he was more optimistic. “This pandemic has allowed us to still test different things. I hope this will enable us to have a more ambitious vision in the future, ”said Mr. Dussault.

“Still possible to avoid the worst”

Greenpeace spokesperson Patrick Bonin is categorical. “The worst can still be avoided,” he said. We must take advantage of the recovery to trigger a real green shift. This is the only possible way. ”

He said dropping Bill 61 was a good start. “We cannot afford to revive an economy with construction sites,” Mr Bonin illustrates.

Rather, it is necessary to restructure sectors such as local agriculture, spatial planning, social housing, public transport, greening and densification of cities.

Patrick Bonin, Greenpeace spokesperson

According to him, reducing greenhouse gases also means increasing carbon capture in Quebec. “It means a huge increase in forest cover,” he adds. You must have a big discussion. And it is up to the government to have the leadership it had during the pandemic to prepare for the shift. “

Blaise Rémillard, responsible for urban planning, shares the same view at the Montreal Regional Environmental Council. “We have to be concerned that five years after the Paris agreement, Quebec still does not have a credible climate plan,” he said, lamenting that the pandemic has led to a “polarization of environmental discourse.” “The reality is that we are preparing to make important decisions about rebooting our economy without any climate roadmap,” he criticizes.

According to Louise Hénault-Ethier, director of science projects at the David Suzuki Foundation, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions “shows that we are able to change together”. “On the other hand, the drastic increase in emissions after deconstruction warns us that achieving the targets must be achieved through strategic investments,” she concludes.

“Alarming” decline in vertebrate populations

The vertebrate populations – fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles – declined 68% between 1970 and 2016. This is the “alarming” observation that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) made in a report on Thursday. new update of its “living planet index (LPI)”, published every two years. To arrive at these figures, the researchers rely on scientific data “collected from 21,000 populations of more than 4,000 vertebrate species.” In the last two editions of the LPI, this figure was more on the order of 60% and 58%. The COVID-19 pandemic must be the wake-up call. Now let’s change our relationship with living things and demand from decision-makers a real protection of biodiversity, ” said Arnaud Gauffier, director of WWF programs, who lamented that politicians “ do not seem to have realized the gravity of the situation ” . Marco Lambertini, director general of the organization, adds that “it is time to respond to the nature-launched SOS”. “If you ignore it, the future of nearly 8 billion people is at stake,” he says.

– Henri Ouellette-Vézina, La Presse

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