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Will the Coronavirus Crisis Trump the Climate Crisis?

By Steven Erlanger TNYT, Published May 9, 2020 Updated May 11, 2020

The battle over how to spend recovery funds — to quickly restore the old economy or invest in a greener one — will define the post-pandemic world.

 

BRUSSELS — With the global paralysis induced by the coronavirus, levels of pollution and carbon emission are dropping everywhere — leaving bluer skies, visible mountains, splendid wildflowers. Even Venice’s famously murky canals are running clear.

 

After decades of industry and government slow-walking the climate issue, for some it is proof that effective action can be achieved.

 

But nature’s revival has come at enormous cost, with Europe’s economy projected to decline 7.4 percent this year. So for many, like the suddenly unemployed, concerns about climate — which seemed urgent just a few months ago — can seem less so now.

Those competing camps are now locked in debate over how and what to rebuild — between those who want to get the economy moving again, no matter how, and those who argue that the crisis is a chance to accelerate the transition to a cleaner economy.

 

Jean Pisani-Ferry, an economist and former aide to President Emmanuel Macron of France, described this as the struggle that “will define the post-pandemic world.”

For green militants, the virus “only strengthens the urgent need for climate action,’’ he wrote recently. “But die-hard industrialists are equally convinced: There should be no higher priority than to repair a ravaged economy, postponing stricter environmental regulations if necessary. The battle has started.’’

 

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