The effects of the COVID 19 pandemic have had visible consequences on the environment. For months our economies slowed down and greenhouse gas emissions declined significantly. Therefore, the link would seem obvious to establish. If we want to achieve the climate objectives set by the various international bodies for the 2030 and 2050 deadlines, we just need to keep a growth rate lower than anything we have seen so far. In fact, simple in theory but the reality risks being quite different.
All the world's economies are putting in place stimulus plans to boost consumption. After the support measures in the various sectors to avoid cascading bankruptcies, governments are now preparing for COVID. Although still struggling, the latest forecasts from the IMF indicate that global GDP should pick up again from the second half of 2021. Helped in this by vaccination campaigns, world economies will recover from COVID 19; each at their own pace.
there is one, however, that has recovered dramatically. After a meager contraction, the Chinese economy is heading for an 8% rebound for 2021. As the epidemic has taken hold in China, the country's economy has shown impressive resilience. As Western countries have suffered successive epidemic waves, China has taken strong and radical measures. So effective that the Chinese economy has even taken advantage of the business opportunities that the virus has created. This is how we saw Chinese exports increase sharply. The country has succeeded in the feat of exporting medical equipment to combat a virus which, for lack of sufficient evidence to date to show the contrary, has started within its borders. Confinements and teleworking have increased the need for computer equipment. China has responded. At the same time, it took advantage of the consumption support plans of foreign governments forced to import.
Faced with this observation, how is it possible to reconcile economic growth and reduction in environmental impacts? By what sleight of hand will we manage to consume more and more without falling back into the usual pitfalls with disastrous consequences?
This can only happen through a fundamental rethinking of our consumption patterns, an unwavering desire to now consume fairly and well. This is what the European Environment Agency underlines: “ The European Green Deal requires not only technological changes, but also changes in consumption and social practices. Growth is rooted culturally, politically and institutionally. Change requires us to overcome these obstacles democratically. Societies must rethink what we mean by growth and progress and their meaning in order to build a sustainable world, to no longer consider them only from a quantitative point of view but also from a qualitative point of view " .
If the thought is noble, it still looks like a beautiful utopia. An approach which presupposes the human being as a consumer no longer greedy but informed, measuring his purchases by the yardstick of decarbonization; an industry marked by measurement, all in the restraint, with the only climatic indicators in sight.
However, the triptych of strong growth, high consumption, climate change could not be more real. We can salute the EEA in its efforts to raise awareness when it declares: "What could be achieved in terms of human progress if the European Green Deal were implemented with the specific aim of inspiring citizens, communities? and European companies to create innovative social practices that have little or no environmental impact while pursuing societal and personal growth? ”.
We can only approve of such words. But this declaration comes up against the 8% growth of China which displays an insolent vigor of its economy. She is the head of a train that asks only to reform itself, faster and stronger.
In the end, the path to moderation and correctness will not be easy to find. But if we had to take some positive steps away from the pandemic the world is going through and from the resulting pause, it is the societal and environmental reflections that have multiplied. It is no longer only the consumer who questions himself, but also the decision-maker. It is also the investor and the shareholder who put pressure on the groups' transition strategy. A whole group slams the door because they disagree with the line followed by their corporation.
Strange multi - schizophrenic world looming; governments that are constantly injecting billions to support their economies and boost consumption and at the same time, come together to decide on strong climate policies. Consumers naturally and culturally driven to buy again and again while they are aware and daily informed of the destructive excesses inflicted on our land. Groups and industries subject to competition, concerned about profitability, pressed by shareholders and which, however, are a cornerstone in the fight against the dangers that threaten us.
The petroleum industry provides a good example. The oil companies posted catastrophic results in 2020. The five majors lost 77 billion dollars in 2020. The ecosystem of this industry was severely shaken. A specialist newspaper reported that : “Shareholders are putting pressure on the groups' transition strategy, while the latter are calling on their professional associations to change. Thus the American Petroleum Institute, very reluctant to the idea of any climate regulation until very recently, has just mentioned the relevance of a carbon tax ”. And the same newspaper adds: “ A few weeks ago, Total struck a blow when it left the American Petroleum Institute (API), the largest professional association of American oil companies and one of the most influential in the world. The French major then believed that the Association had adopted positions far removed from the ambitions of the Paris Agreement by asking for example for deregulation in terms of methane emissions or by opposing the rise of electric vehicles. Less committed, other oil companies explained that they were conducting a review of their commitments in professional associations. "
The various vaccines will surely put an end to the pandemic. But will they also sound the death knell for discernment? Will they lead to alleviating the natural inclinations of humanity to consume more and more? Will they lead us to more measured behaviors? Will they help us make the right decisions to allow us to negotiate, in the best way, the turn towards what everyone now calls: post-covid era?