Science, Policy & a Green Recovery: Understanding the Challenges Ahead

12 October 2020


Reported by Kate McNeil, CSaP Communications Coordinator

"Covid-19 has provided a reset moment. While we are in challenging economic times, the fact that everything has been thrown up in the air by the pandemic also provides an opportunity for us to evaluate everything - and to explore whether our systems are set up to be resilient and sustainable into the future" says Cambridge Zero Director Dr Emily Shuckburgh.

In the first episode of our podcast series exploring science, policy, and a green recovery, CSaP Executive Director Dr Rob Doubleday was joined by Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Professor Rebecca Willis, and Dimitri Zenghelis to explore how the covid-19 pandemic is reshaping the conversation around climate policy. Throughout the episode, we also explored ideas on government leadership in responding to the challenges ahead, the role of local government in responding to the climate crisis, why climate change is often framed as a left-leaning issue, and the role that universities can play in taking leadership on climate action.

You can listen to the episode here:

The covid-19 pandemic has brought to light some of the pressing challenges facing our society, however, this health emergency is not the only crisis we currently face. As we recover from the economic, social and health consequences of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to also address the environmental crises facing our planet, including climate change and biodiversity loss. Produced in partnership with Cambridge Zero, CSaP's Science and Policy Podcast's series on science, policy and a green recovery aims to answer questions about the opportunities and challenges ahead as policymakers aim to achieve a green recovery. Throughout this podcast series, we will explore topics ranging from civic action and climate protests, to the big geopolitical, infrastructure, and economic challenges our society faces as we seek to build back better, promote wellbeing, and protect our environment.

"It would be a missed opportunity, if we went back and locked into the kind of unsustainable and unequal, unfair and vulnerable activities that we've indulged in."

Throughout this episode, Dimitri Zenghelis noted that there is a "sense that we don't want to go back" to the world we had before the pandemic, which policymakers will have to take into account when fostering recovery after we reach the point where the pandemic is under control. The future economy will have to be resilient to pandemics and the onslaught of new technologies, and will have to be attuned to the fact that we live in a resource and climate constrained world. Meanwhile, according to Professor Rebecca Willis, the findings from the UK Climate Assembly suggest that the general public feels strongly that covid recovery must be aligned with net zero goals, both in terms of a green economic stimulus and in terms of not giving government money to big polluters. She also noted that the pandemic has create an opportunity space, in which people are more open to lifestyle changes - including those that might be more environmentally friendly.

While Dr Shuckburgh suggested that "it's pretty difficult to describe any real prioritizations" when it comes to tackling aspects of the climate emergency, Professor Willis noted that the need for government leadership is one crosscutting theme across multiple sectors. Here, multiple speakers noted the potential role for local government in responding to the climate emergency. Meanwhile Dimitri Zenghelis also noted that "there is something very conservative about the notion of sustainability" and that there is a need for right-wing parties to rebrand their approach to the climate crisis, so that the climate crisis and a green approach to economic recovery are not treated as left-leaning, partisan issues.

As we respond to the climate emergency and aim to achieve a green recovery, it was also noted that both skills retraining and universities will have significant roles to play in preparing citizens for the sustainable jobs of the future. Dr Shuckburgh also noted that universities have a role to play as institutional leaders, and in providing expertise and evidence to policymakers and the general public alike.

CSaP's Science and Policy Podcast's series on Science, Policy and a Green Recovery is available across all major podcasting platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, RadioPublic, Pocket Casts, and Castbox.