It’s been a worrying time. For many of us Covid-19 has brought with it, not only health concerns, but financial ones as well.
As lockdown eases and some of our fantastic local business begin to open their doors again, what will the future hold? As we move from survival mode, to recovery mode we need to have an eye on what our local ‘thriving’ mode looks like. Decisions made now can have a positive impact on that future, in both economic and environmental terms.
We’ve all experienced the environmental benefits of lockdown. Local people using local shops and walking local footpaths; clean air on Knaresborough High Street and birdsong heard in middle of Harrogate. The sudden stop on the economy has led to a significant short-term reduction in carbon emissions, but it has come at an unacceptable economic and personal financial cost.
Cutting our greenhouse gases and playing our part in the global response to climate breakdown is vital but not like this. Not with the shutdown of our amazing local businesses and heartache of lives lost to the virus.
How can we take the urgent action needed to keep our greenhouse gas emission low and rebuild a thriving economy? It’s simple, we need an integrated green post-pandemic economic recovery, to establish the lasting social and economic changes that are required to address climate change.
That means investment in more resilient, local, low carbon businesses, creating green employment opportunities, valuing all our key workers and giving a true value to the natural world that sustains our very existence.
Following the 2008 financial crisis, it was shown that green investments typically yield 20% better returns than those in other sectors and therefore make sound financial sense.
With higher than average carbon emissions in the Harrogate District in the transport and agriculture sectors, and lower than average woodland cover limiting the carbon capture potential, we urgently need to focus on these key areas, together with building capacity in sustainable energy generation and retrofitting existing buildings to save energy.
Investment in education and training is also essential, in order to provide the skilled workforce needed to support the growth in green jobs. Harrogate College and neighbouring specialist education providers such as Craven College and Leeds College of Building, as well as private providers, stand poised to play leading roles in establishing and delivering suitable training, in areas such as renewable energy installation, land management and sustainable construction.
The call to reinvigorate the global economy, by stimulating growth in clean technologies and by promoting resilient, sustainable infrastructure is finding support from many quarters, but it needs the courage and commitment from our political leaders and public support to ensure it can be delivered.
Local MP Andrew Jones, speaking recently at an online Post-pandemic Visions workshop, warned that we face a challenge to ensure that the demands for an urgent economic recovery don’t derail the process of decarbonising the District.
Whilst it is hard to predict the future, it is essential that we try to envisage how we would like it to be if we are to secure it for future generations. The film ‘2040’, to be screened shortly, online, by Zero Carbon Harrogate, does just that, looking through the eyes of a father, at what the world could look like in 2040 for his young daughter, by simply using the best of what exists today. You will be able to register for this film screening shortly from our events page