COVID19 and the move to zero carbon

At the end of March 2020 the Daily Telegraph predicted that oil prices could go negative

In the third week of April they did.

As a consequence of this, CO2 emissions in the UK are dropping as consumption falls due to the COVID19 lockdown.

Gridwatch gives a live output of current CO2 produced from power generation

Interestingly, during the third week of April on a sunny and windy day, over 60% of our electricity was produced by renewables with a further 20% from Nuclear. This shows that we are well on our way on the journey to wean ourselves away from fossil fuels, especially with the move towards electrically powered and hydrogen fuelled vehicles. Home based working has had a dramatic impact on travel locally, along with the almost total collapse of passenger air travel.

Of course, it will be interesting to see what Government does as we slowly recover from the COVID19 crisis. With gas and oil prices at a historic low, it could be seen that it might a good time for HM Treasury to increase taxation. Firstly with consumers not driving around, allied to a drop in economic activity, CO2 emissions have dropped by over 5.5%.  Therefore a rise would probably not significantly impact the cost of living, taking into account some permanent impact on our behaviours and secondly, the increase would struggle to push the price up above pre COVID19 levels. It could be an easy and immediate win for Government to influence our consumption of carbon post COVID19. The targets set for the phasing out of fossil fuel based transport, including hybrids, has already made this a long term strategic view for business.

Allied to this of course is the effect that lockdown is having to our personal and working lives. As well as the impact on Co2 emissions, the level of pollutants has dropped dramatically in proportion, with a claim of over 11000 deaths being prevented in Europe alone Additionally,  Shell has cut its dividend to shareholders for the first time since WW2

The “Zoom” effect has certainly changed the way that people feel about video conferencing. People who have shied away from using this for business in the past, now have little alternative but to join in. Video calls certainly seem more engaging, more productive and actually shorter than conventional audio based conference calls too. Added to this I feel that we will now be looking a lot more closely as to whether we actually have to make that car journey or trip in to London, especially when we can engage face-face with someone.

When one looks at the Environmental, Social and Governance duties of business, undoubtably COVID19 has affected the Social aspect, with how business protects the workforce and engages with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. It will however certainly have an effect on the Environmental impact of business, which should, if managed strategically, have a long term impact for good.




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