The Key to Future Competitiveness
The winners of the future global economy will be the countries that moved decisively to replace fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy sources. Unlike the United States, China, most European countries, and others clearly have gotten the message, and are capitalizing on the rapidly falling costs of wind and solar.
DENVER – As countries around the world struggle to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the main focus must be on human health and economic wellbeing. But there is also an opportunity for the response to create both short-term benefits and longer-term economic advantages. Those countries that seize the moment could gain a competitive edge for decades to come. By orienting their recovery packages around sustainable solutions, such as those outlined in the European Green Deal, governments can chart a course toward a future that includes improved health, better jobs, lower energy costs, and sustained economic growth.
The direct health benefits of clean energy are now widely recognized. As we have all seen during the pandemic, reducing fossil-fuel use almost immediately results in cleaner air, water, and land. Moreover, these benefits accrue disproportionately to the marginalized and lower-income communities that have long suffered the most from fossil-fuel pollution. To be sure, an economic downturn is not the way to reduce emissions over the long term; that will require sustained, structural change. But the crisis at least will have reacquainted the residents of many urban areas with the taste of breathable air.
In addition to improving public health, replacing fossil fuels with clean energy will create more jobs quickly, and many will be safer than what came before. Solar, wind, and battery-storage projects can be rapidly deployed, boosting employment in a variety of sectors and settings, from factories and installation to maintenance and repairs. And that doesn’t include new sustainable-infrastructure projects to build transmission lines, electric-vehicle charging stations, and electric rail. Yet another source of new employment will come from constructing new net-zero-emissions buildings and retrofitting existing ones for energy efficiency.