The $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package isn’t green, but it helps
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The U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package designed to bolster the economy that is entering atrophy under the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected over 69,000 in the U.S.
The unanimous approval of the measures—which constitute the largest emergency aid package in U.S. history—came late Wednesday evening after days of debate where environmental lobbyists pushed to include more green clauses.
“Democrats won’t let us fund hospitals or save small businesses until they get to dust off the Green New Deal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday after weekend-long negotiations failed to reach a deal. A second vote later that day was beaten down, too.
The green-minded Democrats sought to include conditions on a bailout for the aviation industry that would give airlines a payout only if they cut greenhouse gas emissions. There was a move to include tax credits and other benefits to support wind and solar power too, while scrapping a $3 billion White House proposal to shore up oil reserves.
The purpose of those climate-conscious caveats is to avoid kickstarting the economy off in the wrong direction. As Jamie Henn, co-founder of the global environmental platform 350.org, said to Vox, the coronavirus has “basically turned off the global economy. [We should] install a new operating system before we turn it back on.”
I made a similar argument in The Loop a couple of weeks ago when discussing how manufacturers are hedging their bets against another pandemic by diversifying supply chains outside of China. These shutdowns are an opportunity to build something new rather than simply restart the old.
For an idea of what a greener path out of the pandemic might have looked like, a group of high-profile environmental advocates, academics and activists pitched their own $2 trillion Green Stimulus package.
In the end, however, the bill that passed the Senate offers little to the environmentalists. The oil purchasing plan was struck from the deal but the proposed tax credit extensions for clean energy were cut as well.
Airlines will receive roughly $30 billion in loans and cash without being subject to greater scrutiny over carbon emissions, too, in a further blow to the green campaigners.
Nevertheless, the $2 trillion provides swathes of measures giving billions in support to individuals, business and hospitals—spending that will save livelihoods as well as lives. That’s a win.
National Geographic released a special issue for Earth Day (which is on April 22). The cover is split and flipped: hold it one way and you see an optimist’s view of the future, where we stave off the effects of climate change; hold it the other way and, well…The issue features articles from both the hope and despair point of view. Among the pessimistic takes are these nifty charts mapping how climate will change across hundreds of global cities between now and 2070 if nothing is done. National Geographic
BlackRock is committing $50 million to COVID-19 relief efforts, the world’s largest asset manager said this week. From the press release, it’s not clear what form the “funding” takes—whether it is a donation, an investment, or a loan—but the first tranche of $18 million has been deployed to “food banks and community organizations” in the U.S. and the E.U. CEO Larry Fink said BlackRock believes it has the “responsibility to support those least able to cope and bounce back.” BlackRock
The Great Barrier Reef experienced its third mass bleaching event in five years, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The last wave of bleaching was in 2017 and affected 22% of shallow water coral in the reef. The latest bout of damage is expected to be worse, and the largest on record. Bleaching normally occurs during El Niño years, when the ocean water is warmer, but there is no El Niño at the moment—making the latest bleaching more worrying. The Guardian
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Global wind power capacity grew by almost a fifth in 2019 compared to the year before, notching up by 60.4 gigawatts, according to a report from the Global Wind Energy Council. Global wind capacity is now over 651 gigawatts, with a tenth of new wind farm installations offshore. Around 70% of new capacity was dispersed across China, the U.S., the U.K., India, and Spain with the U.S. and China leading the market for onshore wind farms.