The former governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has added his voice to calls for industrialised nations to invest in a greener economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
He shared his comments in an online discussion about climate change with the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull.
Both called on nations to accelerate a transition to cleaner energy.
The event was organised by the Policy Exchange think tank.
Mr Carney said that the pandemic was “a terrible situation, but there was also a big opportunity” at the end of it.
“We have a situation with climate change which will involve every country in the world and from which we can’t self-isolate,” he added.
Science confronts politics
As has rapidly become the socially distant norm, both participants joined the discussion via video conference from their respective homes – setting out how they saw ways in which countries could emerge from the crisis with cleaner, more sustainable economies.
Mr Turnbull, who was Australia’s prime minister from 2015-2018, issued blunt, broad criticisms of many governments for failing to take the science of climate change seriously.
Drawing bleak parallels with the pandemic, Mr Turnbull said Covid-19 was a case of “biology confronting and shaking the complacency of day-to-day politics with a physical reality of sickness and death”.
“The question is, when will the physics of climate change mug the complacency and denialism – just as biology has with respect to the virus.”
Mr Carney, who stepped down as Bank of England governor in March, just before the UK lockdown began, explained that, at a time when many industries would have to restructure, this would be a chance “to try not go back to the status quo”.
As countries re-launched and rebuilt their economies, they “should try to leapfrog ahead”, he said.
He recommended regulatory policies that would push economies more quickly towards greener growth – and a more sustainable future – citing the UK’s plan to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2035. Governments, he added, should also take the opportunity to invest in wind and solar power to accelerate the transition to greener energy.
Many countries would have the opportunity to invest in sustainable infrastructure, Mr Carney said, pointing out that that opportunity was missed after the 2008 financial crisis.
“You can’t wish away the systemic risk,” he said. “In the end, a small investment up front can save a tremendous cost down the road.”
By Victoria Gill
Science correspondent, BBC News
May 22, 2020