In 2020 some phrases entered our vocabulary and quickly shifted from being rarely used to overused. It is similar to when you name a child and the immediately elevated frequency of that name. Coronavirus, social distancing and the ‘new normal’ are such examples.
With most countries at least thinking about lessening lockdown and conversations turning to reopening of offices and shops, the ‘new normal’ is high on the list of what a post-COVID world should look like.
In this transitional time, a liminal space, where we are leaning forward and trying to define the future, is a ‘new normal‘ enough of a change?
The definition of normal is:
“Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected”.
Given what we know about the urgency of climate change and what we’ve seen recently in the US regarding societal and systemic racial injustices, is conforming to a new version of the past really what is needed? Learning what we have during these unprecedented times (another overused phrase?), why are we not seizing this moment to think about a ‘new different‘?
We cannot be fooled into receiving false praise for positive changes to the environment since COVID-19 went mainstream. The estimated decline in global CO2 emissions of about 8 per cent in 2020 and Britain’s electricity grid not burning any coal for 60 days, the longest period since the Industrial Revolution began more than 200 years ago are both compelling statistics. However, history also shares that the carbon emissions drop following the recession in 2009 was followed by a sharp rise of almost 6 per cent in 2010.
Rather than changes through circumstance, we need to make a difference through technological, behavioural, and societal changes. We need the right eyes to see, right voices to speak out, the right ears to listen so we make decisions that will drive and prioritise human health, equality, and ecological sustainability.
In order to support the new different, we need to see positive and decisive leadership. Governments need to support a new different through robust environmental and societal policies, at both a national and local level. Policies must be embedded within the long-term recovery plans of the country, not just a temporary vote-seeking measure by the current governing party. The investor market and access to capital is another key driver, with a promising outcome of COVID-19 being the upturn in ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) and TCFD (Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosure) interest, with investors now becoming more concerned about finding socially responsible and resilient businesses to back. Should we be following in the footsteps of countries like Canada and apply a “green test” to access to capital?
Never has there been a time when we needed to Build Back Better and all stand accountable behind those words to achieve a fairer, greener and more resilient global economy.