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Source: Greenpeace New Zealand

The Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic needs our attention right now, but recovery measures could be part of the solution to the climate emergency.

Right now, the coronavirus pandemic is the global priority. We all need to work together to save lives, look after each other and keep our communities strong. But, as Governments around the world take steps to smooth the economic shock of Covid-19, we have an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild our society in ways that tackle the ongoing climate, inequality and biodiversity crises. With the right recovery strategy, this could be the moment we take the measures that solve the climate crisis at the same time we work to protect our people and communities from this one. 

This could be the turning point.

We are now all facing challenges on a scale that would have been unimaginable only a few months ago. All over New Zealand, people frightened for the health of their loved ones are also worrying how they will pay their rent, feed their families and keep their jobs or businesses going.

The coming days and weeks will be tough.

In the short term, every effort must be targeted at protecting those who need it most. 

But once we are past the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will still have a climate crisis to tackle, oceans to protect, and forests to save. One thing’s for sure – Greenpeace will not lose sight of that, our work continues.

Greenpeace has a long history of reacting and adapting to changing world events – and that is what we will do now. We will find ways to continue to have an impact and to influence governments and corporations as events unfold.

During this time, the government will inject billions into the economy to keep it afloat. 

This is a huge opportunity.

We have the opportunity to direct that money towards clean industries, to set in place a greener economy, and create a more resilient system that puts people and planet first. 

The government can go beyond protecting what exists today to providing an economic stimulus package to help us build a new tomorrow.

We will soon be in one of those rare moments when left and right both agree on the need for large-scale state intervention. And it’s happening against a backdrop of climate change — history’s biggest-ever market failure. This is where intervention becomes necessary, not just for our prosperity but for our survival.

So when governments intervene in a big way to jump-start the recovery, it’s important the support they provide isn’t just a temporary crutch for the big corporations propelling us towards the next crisis.

The normality we were used to won’t pop back into existence without a push, and as we’re going to be pushing, let’s choose a direction to push in.

There is a risk that the high-emissions industries, with easy access to ministers, will have their hands out for government support. If given, this support will sink us deeper into the crisis they have caused.

Decisions are being made now on how we will spend our collective wealth rebuilding the economy, so let’s be clear about what we want from the deal. 

Bailouts and stimulus funds need to be tied to social benefits – if we’re paying for companies to provide continued employment, make that a clause in the contract. And where there is potential demand for transport, energy or other goods, let’s fill the gaps by supporting companies that can provide low-carbon solutions that solve two problems for the price of one.

When we’re building houses, let’s make them zero carbon houses, equipped with solar panels and batteries.

When we design government schemes to get laid off workers back into work, let’s give them decent jobs with a real future, in factories, farms and offices that are designed to be sustainable in our carbon-constrained reality. And, importantly, jobs that won’t need a second bailout to cope with tightening restrictions on climate pollution.

Last week, International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol urged political and financial leaders to drive global climate action through their economic stimulus packages. As well as promoting economic recovery, Birol suggests they could also accelerate the transition to cleaner energy sources.

Let’s do this.

Despite the trauma we are all going through, this is the time we must think about it. If we ignore it now, those lobbyists may get their way and use the stimulus to lock us into a disastrous high-carbon future that we were just starting to steer away from. And that mistake will cost the economy many billions of dollars as well as many lives and livelihoods.

By using the stimulus as part of a low carbon transition plan, a Green Covid Response, we could emerge from beneath the dark cloud that has settled over all of our lives with a new contract between government, business, people and the planet. One that would protect our health, our homes and our environment. A way forward that would ensure a future for our children.

Many people will soon suffer unbearable loss. Some already have. The priority in this moment must be saving lives and livelihoods. The short-term is frightening and uncertain, and the short term is where we all live. 

These are not the end times. If the government gets the stimulus wrong, it could accelerate us towards them, certainly in terms of climate change. But if we work together to help them get it right, this could be the moment we use what we have learned about how fragile and interconnected we all are to solve the climate crisis at the very moment we escape from this one.

In the meantime, let’s take care of ourselves, and each other. There are so many ways to support communities at a time of crisis – both online and in real life. We’ve made a list below of useful organisations and resources for you to investigate, including ways that you can give or receive help at this time.

The connectedness of our planet has never been more clear. And whatever happens, we’re all in this together.