The Environmental Upside of Covid-19 and How to Make it Last

The temperatures recorded in 2020 showed an increase of 1.2 degree Celsius, compared to the era between 1850 and 1900. The World Meteorological Organisation warns that the figure is likely to escalate. According to the estimations, we will observe the difference of 1.5 degree Celsius within the next five years.

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WMO also says that with the trend from before Covid, average temperatures could rise between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius until 2100. The dreadful results would include retreating of glaciers and rising sea levels, affecting the lives of nearly 400 million people.

The climate challenge and cars

The automotive industry and transport played a big part in the overall pollution being at its forefront for quite some time. Until the early 2000s, a global race towards bigger, more powerful engines dominated the sector’s panorama. Fuel consumption was not a big concern to anyone except the widely ignored environmentalists. CO2 and NO2 emissions were on a constant rise. 

When a couple of years later a bigger part of the world realised the need to pull a brake on combustion engines and choose renewable energy, it has become almost too late before the right industry changes and legislative measures were taken.

The struggle towards making a change

Before 2020 we were basically in a vicious circle of destroying the planet. The greenhouse effect, thinning ozone layer and decreasing sweet water reservoirs are only a few signs we’ve chosen to overlook. Economic liberalism taught us to reap the Earth’s resources like there was no tomorrow. And then scientists proved that there actually might be no tomorrow.

The Paris Agreement of 2016 was supposed to be a beacon of hope for reversing the climate changes. However, after initial success, Trump’s administration withdrew its participation. Also, many countries expressed their disappointment when it turned out that the agreement was easier on China, one of the biggest pollutants in the world. Fortunately, after Trump lost the elections, President Joe Biden’s administration decided to rejoin in February 2021.

The environmental implications of the automotive industry after Covid-19

When the pandemic came, there was fear of dying, and hardships of lockdown. But when we grounded our planes, stopped using trains or buses, and locked away cars in garages, something unexpected happened. Covid-19 showed us that the reduction of pollution was within our reach.

The goals and solutions

Yes, the pandemic made more people choose the ‘good old’ combustion engines over the green ones when thinking of a new car. This trend, however, will reverse when the situation is stable. The automotive industry has already taken steps towards green and sustainable change. Covid might slow this progress, albeit only for a while.

Research shows that global emissions will decrease until 2024. Scientists suggest different figures, between 4% and 5.5%, which is an enormous reduction. That, in turn, could be a magnificent stepping stone towards slowing down global warming. We must keep the rising temperature at the level of 1,5 degree Celsius. 

The automotive sector’s contribution plays an important part here.

We should also conduct extensive R+D towards new eco-friendly transport technologies. Some of those ideas sound ridiculous, like UPC’s no left-turns policy. But it is, in fact, a brilliant idea. Moving away from trying to find the shortest route reduces fuel consumption, time in traffic and the chances of an accident. We need more of such genius innovations!

The switch from combustion to electric powertrains means cutting down on CO2 and NO2 emissions. We need more than just zero-emissions cars. Trucks, trains and ships must also go green. But most of all, we have to open our minds to new ideas and say farewell to the ‘old ways’.