The geopolitics of climate change in the time of COVID-19

1 July 2020

As a pandemic has taken hold in the world, the discourse on the impact of Covid-19 on climate change has been framed in stark terms.

One widely-held view suggests that a focus on Covid-19 will mean less focus on climate action; another belief is that Covid-19 will accelerate economic trends towards decarbonisation, encouraging us to avoid climate destruction at all costs.

Yet, the reality is more nuanced, sitting somewhere in-between.

On Wednesday, 1 July, 2020, the KPMG Global Sustainability Institute hosted a webinar on the current geopolitics of climate change in Covid times, with leading speakers from political research and analysis firm Eurasia Group.

Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, Former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Eurasia Group’s Energy, Climate & Resources will be in conversation with Adrian King, Global Chair, KPMG Climate Change & Sustainability Services.

The discussion covered:

  • the impact of changes in energy use, due to Covid-19, on GHG emissions in 2020 – and how this affects the carbon budget for 2030 and 2050 targets
  • the impact of Covid-19 on the economics of new energy technologies
  • the outlook for climate policy in 2020 and beyond: how will policies such as carbon pricing, or the Paris Agreement pledges be affected a result of Covid-19?
  • the impact of Covid-19 on public opinion and support for climate action.                       

Lord Mark Malloch‐Brown is a former number two in the United Nations as well as having served in the British Cabinet and Foreign Office. He is active both in business and in the non-profit world, remains deeply involved in international affairs, and is a Senior Advisor to Eurasia Group. He is currently Chairman of SGO and its elections division Smartmatic, a leading elections technology company. He is on the Boards of Investec and Seplat and is also on the board of Kerogen, an oil and gas private equity fund. He is Co‐chair of a new Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development.

Rohitesh Dhawan is lead climate & ESG analyst for Eurasia’s Energy, Climate & Resources group. He specializes in the extractives and natural resource sectors, and his areas of focus include national and international climate policies, new energies, social and community development strategies, and just transition issues. Rohitesh has been named one of South Africa’s climate change leaders and is an advisor to the UN Deputy Secretary General. 

Adrian King leads KPMG’s global network of climate change and sustainability professionals and is also the Partner in charge of climate, sustainability and ESG services at KPMG in Australia. He advises major clients in multiple sectors on their climate and sustainability performance and strategies.