Redesigning the economy and the climate change opportunists

We are experiencing major economic disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the actions of Governments around the world in locking countries and regions down. The effects of this will be felt for months and probably years. Some business and businesses will bounce back, but some, especially air travel and cruise ships (and tourism in general) – those that survive – will likely have a long and slow recovery. The numbers of unemployed have surged, the number of people going out of businesses is likely to also surge (we won’t find out until lockdowns ease off) and will drop only gradually.

Governments have been piling large amounts of money into financial support for personal and business and that looks likely to continue for a while at least.

We have had some minor murmurings for Ministers over future economic refocussing, but there’s no solid sign of what we have coming from Government, they are still in reactive rescue mode.

This is a very good opportunity to redesign the economic and social systems of countries, and the idealists and opportunists are already out pushing their favoured reforms.

Here are some suggestions being made by various lobbyists.

Russel Norman at Greenpeace: Climate change is harder to visualise than coronavirus, but no less dangerous

The Covid-19 Coronavirus has so far caused more than 145,000 deaths worldwide.

These are grim numbers from the World Health Organisation, the actual human suffering is impossible to measure.

By comparison, the WHO predicts that climate change will kill 250,000 people every year between 2030 and 2050.

A total of five million people. Starting in ten years’ time.

Given those figures, why does the global response to the climate crisis compared to Covid look like a tortoise versing a hare?

One of the crucial differences – Covid has been with us just over a hundred days. Climate Change became front page news more than 30 years ago.

The pandemic is much easier to see and visualise. It doesn’t affect us, it infects us. Watching those awful scenes of coffins piling up in Italy and mass graves in the US, you need little imagination to grasp the threat to you and your family.

By contrast we may feel that climate change is unlikely to kill us. A dangerous misconception.

The neoliberal argument against society acting collectively via the government is dead. As the Financial Times editorial put it recently: “Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table.

Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy.”

Transforming agriculture, electrifying transport, embracing wind and solar power. We can do this.

Best of all we can start now. If we are going to spend 20 billion dollars stimulating the economy, let’s spend a bunch of that money on a Green Covid Response – infrastructure projects that hasten us towards a zero carbon future – rather than landing us slap bang in the middle of another existential crisis.

That was posted at The Standard on Friday and only got six comments – does this suggest there isn’t a lot of public support for the climate change switch, or Norman or Greenpeace?

Associate Professor Janet Stephenson, Director of the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago: Covid-19 has nothing on what’s coming

Covid-19 and its aftermath will be the greatest disruption that New Zealand has faced since at least the Great Depression in the 1930s.  It is already causing untold misery and trauma and will bring both economic hardship and health consequences for some years to come.

Yet these impacts will be trivial compared to the likely economic and social disruption if we continue to destroy the environment. Climate action failure, biodiversity loss, extreme weather, human-made environmental disasters and water crises are five of the top 10 global risks identified by the World Economic Forum in 2020. Infectious diseases are just one more.

The sudden shock of the coronavirus pandemic has shown how quickly governments and societies can act to deal with an imminent existential threat. We’ve been able to make massive personal and business sacrifices to respond to this emergency. Lockdown is working and even greater costs, and deaths, are being avoided.

But at the same time, like frogs oblivious to a pot of heating water, we’re failing to take serious action to avoid the slow-boiling yet increasingly visible emergencies caused by human over-consumption, over-exploitation and radical destabilisation of natural systems. These are existential threats but, like the frogs, we are failing to make the leap.

This is our chance to kick-start a shift to a sustainable future. A chance to safeguard future generations, to re-design our direction, to define a new normal and make it our way of life. To re-lay our track unerringly to a sustainable future so that the young among us can face it with confidence and their elders can leave it to them without regret.

Right now, we have an unprecedented opportunity to re-set our direction to a sustainable future. But it won’t happen unless visions are translated into actions that align with all seven whetū, not just the one or two that seem easiest.

Allbirds’ Tim Brown: How Covid-19 will help us unite against the climate crisis

New Zealand has made solid progress towards declaring goals for developing a carbon zero economy but now has an opportunity to accelerate the urgency of that action. We can build on the collaboration between business and government in the face of Covid-19 to imagine closer partnerships to tackle climate change. The primary industries must be brought into that conversation not as a roadblock to progress but as a potential source of the solution with innovation and regenerative farming practices aligned around carbon reduction initiatives.

Let’s use the challenges of this moment to propel us not back to normal but forward to something better.

Rod Oram: A message for the timid, fearful and selfish

If we want a better future, we’ll have to fight for it. Better means for all people and the planet. Fight means to overcome, by all ethical means, those seeking a return to the pre-Covid status quo.

Many people hope such profound improvement is underway. The great rupture caused by the virus makes blindingly obvious the weaknesses of our economic, social, political and ecological relationships; yet it also shows us how people can come together to cope with the coronavirus epidemic in ways magnificent, creative and effective.

– From the Yunus Centre in the business school at Griffith University in Brisbane comes a model for developing a regenerative economy. “Stimulus and rescue measures will be critical to recovery. We have a choice about how to shape these measures however. We could apply rescue measures that seek to get us back to where we were and likely achieve a degraded ‘business-as-usual’ economy, with a significant fiscal hole to fill,” the Centre writes.

“Or, we could intentionally design these measures to reshape our economy for recovery plus regeneration. This would mean an economy in better shape to withstand the longer term effects of the pandemic, and also deliver a broader range of outcomes for people, places and planet into the future.”

– From Volans, the British sustainability adviser to global corporates, long-led by John Elkington, comes the Tomorrow’s Capitalism InquiryIt aims “to accelerate the emergence of a regenerative economic system where companies thrive because their business model – and financial value – is inextricably linked to creating social and environmental value.”

– From Kate Raworth, the British economist, comes a city-scale application of her work on regenerative business, economic, social and ecological systems. This draws on, and takes to a deeper level, her insights in her 2017 book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist.

The conversation between the three of them is essential watching for anyone wanting to help create our better future. Hopefully it might also persuade the timid, fearful and selfish that they too can contribute to and benefit from this vital project.

I don’t think that labeling people with alternate views as timid, fearful and selfish is a great way to gain wider support, but there could be a groundswell of public support for radical change that becomes unstoppable.

There’s obviously a lot of lobbying ramping up. The Government will be busy just dealing with Covid, but may also be able to be influenced in what they may do with their economic and social recovery plans.

I presume there are other lobbyists promoting other policy directions.

It’s important that if there are significant changes in policy directions being considered that the wider public are included in discussions and decisions, and there isn’t some sort of reform by stealth going on.