The Stimulus Passes and COVID-19 Lessons for Climate Change
Climate, Health and Equity Brief

The Stimulus Passes and COVID-19 Lessons for Climate Change

The Climate, Health & Equity Brief is GMMB’s take on the week’s news on the current impacts of climate change. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so by clicking here.

Hot Topic: Relief. After days of debate and delays, the CARES Act is expected to be signed into law today. The $2 trillion stimulus package is designed to bring relief to American workers, small businesses, state and local governments, hospitals and key industries in the wake of COVID-19.

The stimulus will impact the trajectory of major industries for the foreseeable future, and while it provides a much-needed shot in the arm to the American economy, it is something of a mixed bag on the sustainability front. It provides $58 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees to the major airlines with no requirement for future emissions reductions, for example, and it fails to extend tax breaks to help renewable energy industries. At the same time, it omits the $3 billion Trump sought fill the U.S. oil stockpile, a ‘draw’ that has earned the deal a pass from major green groups.

As Christiana Figueres noted this week, the coronavirus fight offers a number of lessons that extend to efforts to combat climate change. Prevention of disease is much less costly and painful than dealing with the aftermath. Global challenges know no national borders, and overcoming them requires the cooperation of everyone. Governments can take decisive action—and we can change our behavior quickly—when it’s absolutely necessary.

Matt & Traci, GMMB

Drought conditions across the western U.S. have increased the risk of an early wildfire season at the same time that many firefighters find themselves quarantined and infected with COVID-19. (The New York Times) Despite increased COVID-19 risks for coal miners who suffer from black lung and other respiratory diseases, Pennsylvania has declared coal mining an essential service and told miners to keep working. (Gizmodo, The Washington Post) New satellite data shows significant drops in air pollution in major U.S. metropolitan areas where COVID-19 precautions have drastically decreased traffic levels. (The New York Times) Climate, Health & Equity Brief subscribers are invited to join Coronavirus and the climate crisis: Mobilizing health for common solutions, a free webinar on March 31 at 10:30am ET to learn about how these health emergencies are intertwined. (Skoll Foundation, Health Care Without Harm)Equity
Aid workers warn that current travel restrictions will prevent the UN’s newly-announced $2 billion COVID-19 response plan from reaching vulnerable countries already suffering from extreme climate events, conflicts and other crises. (The Guardian)It’s Women’s History Month! Check out our interview with Melanie Allen and Erin Rogers, co-founders of the Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice, about the importance of funding diverse groups on the front line in the fight against climate change. (GMMB)

Politics & Economy
Green groups
expressed their support for the $2 trillion stimulus package passed this week while signaling a desire that further stimulus packages result in a more sustainable economy and a cleaner energy future. (Our Daily Planet, Politico)The Trump administration continues to hold auctions and accept lease nominations for the rights to drill on public lands despite plummeting oil and gas prices, allowing fossil fuel companies to buy access at a fraction of the normal cost. (The Washington Post)The EPA has announced plans to ease environmental compliance requirements and deadlines for oil refiners, water utilities and sewage plants in the wake of COVID-19. (The Wall Street Journal)The plastics industry is calling on the federal government to denounce bans on single-use plastics and endorse them as the safest choice during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Politico)

Christina Figueres shares five lessons from COVID-19 that will help us tackle climate change. (Time)

Climate demonstrations are moving online during the COVID-19 pandemic, with new campaigns calling for a “people’s bailout” to replace stimulus plans for fossil fuel corporations. (The Washington Post)

Sheltering at home? Check out the most buzzworthy environmental documentaries of the year by streaming the 2020 DC Environmental Film Festival, available for free until March 31.

“We have two curves we need to quickly bend downward. One is the coronavirus infections, and the second is global emissions—neither of them will be easy.”

–    Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency