Dear Network Members,
The immediate impacts of COVID-19 on society are difficult to comprehend and the long-term effects are difficult to predict. However, we know a few things for certain:
- People will still need to make energy choices.
- The climate crisis is not going away.
- Massive public investment in the economy (from infrastructure spending to tax and incentive policy) to recover from the pandemic can either encourage continued fossil fuel use or help us move toward a more resilient and sustainable economy.
If our federal government’s delayed and inadequate response to the coronavirus has taught us anything, it is the importance of listening to experts and swiftly acting on the best available data and evidence. Ignoring warnings – whether from public health experts or climate scientists – only makes our future options more limited, costly, painful, and not nearly as effective as if we acted early on. My hope is that increased public understanding of concepts like exponential growth, feedback loops, systemic risk, and delayed impacts, will lead people to demand proactive and preventative action, both for public health and the climate crisis.
As Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said, “you are always behind where you think you are.” That statement applies as equally to the climate crisis as it does to the pandemic. Our government has ignored the warnings of climate scientists for three decades now. As a result, the amount of climate disruption that is already unavoidable due to high concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions is dangerously high. But we can still avoid the worst impacts of a destabilized climate if we act boldly and comprehensively.
While we may see a temporary decline in emissions due to the coronavirus, shutting down our economy is, of course, not a desirable or sustainable way to meet emissions targets. Instead, we need to quickly move beyond fossil fuels for all our energy needs – an approach that leads to economic health, not economic pain.
That means, in part, ensuring that the federal response to revive our economy does not further lock in dangerous fossil fuel dependence. Instead, as former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz writes, we need to invest “to ensure the future resilience of our economy.” And as Rolling Stone commented, it is time to be clear about what is expensive and what is cheap. Bailouts for the fossil fuel industry, suspending pollution monitoring, and dismantling fuel efficiency standards are all dangerous threats to our health and economic future—and are beneath our national legacy of improvement and innovation.
Our goal, coming out of the current crisis, should be to have a strong and resilient economy that has greatly reduced its dependence on fossil fuels. Specifically, we should be switching from fossil fueled transportation, heating systems, and electricity generation at every chance we have.
That’s why we are our assisting our federal delegation in gathering ideas from across Vermont and our Network for effective federal government action, including new public investments. This Network is particularly well suited to share ideas about needed infrastructure and energy related investments that can lead to a “more just, thriving, and sustainable future.”
We’ve put together a brief online form and invite our network members and public partners to share your ideas about possible energy related federal action or investment by next Wednesday April 15th. We will share your responses with Vermont’s federal delegation (if you wish) and use your responses to convene partners working on similar issues and help build planning capacity across our Network.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions or further thoughts.
We’re in this together,
EAN Executive Director