One of the most striking and encouraging facets of the wrenching global pandemic is how little it has deterred the gathering momentum toward a carbon-neutral future. Most notably, within the upper ranks of global capital, recent months have if anything revealed an even sharper focus on the monumental long-term risks of unabated climate change. Major unknowns, including the course of COVID-19 itself, will bear heavily in the months and years ahead. But the latest signals from investors, CEOs, and central bankers offer some hope that the world could come out of the pandemic better primed for a net-zero transition than before.
The most immediate impact of COVID-19 on the climate crisis is, unfortunately, fleeting, and at great cost. By the end of March, according to the International Energy Agency, the pandemic’s economic fallout had produced the steepest quarterly decline in global carbon dioxide emissions ever; by year’s end, it was expected to reduce emissions by twice as much as all previous dips since World War II (International Energy Agency 2020). In the United States, the Rhodium Group reported that emissions between March 15 and June 15 were down a stunning 18 percent from a year earlier (Larsen et al. 2020).
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