During the great depression and after World War II, the world set out to make a new order with the explicit mandate to prevent the tragic from happening again. As we hear the loud creaking of strained institutions that protected us throughout the 20th century, the great lockdown presents the same option for a great reset with equal consequence—for our environment, for our health, for a sustainable future.
As we isolate, the environment has healed temporarily and skylines once darkened by industrial haze returned. Some have estimated a 5 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, nearly wiping out the last decade’s global growth in emissions. Still this drop is not enough to stop global temperatures from rising.
One of our challenges now is to fix today’s economy and put people back to work while still investing in our environmental future by decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions once and for all. We can focus on making environmental gains permanent without losing economic dynamism. For the first time in human history, we have the technology, and human ingenuity to find the environmental and social solutions the world so badly needs. We are only limited by our collective will to do so. We have learned these past weeks, we have the capacity, willingness and creativity to change our ways, much more quickly than we could have ever imagined. Now, we need to keep that collective will and apply it to the biggest world problems.
By embracing the ESG agenda, we can look to price negative externalities rightly, build sustainable infrastructure that propels economic vitality through new technology, clean electricity generation, and sustainable methods of production. That is how we can respond to tragedies like COVID-19, the Australian wildfires, East African droughts, South Asian floods and countless others we have seen so recently. It will undoubtedly take a massive public private partnership of unprecedented scale, but as we have learned, we can transform the way we work and behave.
Once we emerge from isolation, I am optimistic that the lessons we are learning—all of us across the globe are learning the hard way—will forge our will to act, so we can make a more sustainable world for tomorrow. That future may prove the best way to honor all those directly affected by this tragic pandemic.