Although COVID-19 shut downs gave the environment a brief respite from emissions and pollution, the fight against climate change is far from resolved. As we move forward and begin to reopen our economies, we look at case studies in South Korea, France, and Italy where policy makers are taking advantage of COVID-19 to tackle the looming threat of climate change.
South Korea not only had a highly successful management strategy for COVID-19, but their democratic party also rallied after winning the April election to propose a Green New Deal for the country. The deal would make South Korea the first East Asian country to commit to reaching net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. The agreement would implement a carbon tax, increase investment in renewable energy, and end public financing for fossil fuel projects domestically and abroad. It also includes provisions for training employees transitioning to the green energy sector.
Even though Italy was one of the hardest-hit countries during COVID-19, officials are taking big steps to make their cities greener. Recently, city officials in Milan announced that they would modify 22 miles of roads to make more room for pedestrians and bicycles. The city is making a big push to implement transportation that is safe, distanced, and sustainable.
We’ve shared stories of cities around the world prioritizing green transportation during the pandemic. Berlin has introduced 14 miles of pop-up bike lanes. Transportation is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, so even though adding bike lanes seems minimal, it can make a big impact and encourage people to adjust their commute habits.
Although controversial, the global collapse of the airline industry has prompted several countries to facilitate bailouts for airline companies. France took such steps with Air France, but used the opportunity to implement stricter regulations. The $10.8 billion bailout package for Air France-KLM included provisions that Air France must end short routes that compete with more sustainable train routes. The airline will also have to cut its emissions per passenger in half relative to 2005 by 2050. Austria implemented similar measures in its Austrian Airlines bailout.
Even in the midst of COVID-19, we must remember that the climate crisis demands constant attention as well from political leaders. These examples are great ways countries are integrating solutions to the two issues.