Overpopulation and "unsustainable" lifestyles played a part in the virus crisis, the Environment Minister has said, as he called for Jersey to seize the "unexpected chance" to make green changes.
According to Deputy John Young, moves to make Jersey more sustainable could even be a source of stimulus as the island's economy enters its post-covid recovery phase.
Deputy Young expressed his views in answer to a written question, in which he stated that, despite the health crisis, the island and the global population as a whole couldn’t afford to be “any less committed to tackling climate change”.
“In my opinion humanity finds itself in the grip of the global pandemic in part because of an imbalance between human populations and natural eco-systems,” Deputy Young wrote.
Pictured: Deputy Young says the pandemic was caused partly because of "an imbalance between human populations and natural eco-systems".
“A post-virus resumption of unsustainable behaviours and lifestyles would miss the unexpected chance to make global changes that this momentous time presents.
“I fully endorse the many commentators and members of the public who have begun to think about how we can build a more sustainable, in all meanings of that word, future.”
The Minister welcomed the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions due to reduced transport during lockdown, describing it as an “indication of our communities potential and longer lasting behaviour change to address the climate emergency”.
“I very much hope we can build on this reduction in emissions as we recover from the impact of the pandemic," he said.
Deputy Young went on to say that he wants to see the Government take into account the “principles and lessons of the EU Green Deal” – described as the roadmap for making the EU's economy sustainable – when devising the island’s recovery plan.
“The Green Deal constitutes a new growth strategy, which is able to deliver on the twin benefits of stimulating economies and creating jobs while accelerating the green transition,” the Minister wrote.
Pictured: With less cars on the road, carbon emissions have dropped.
“Additionally, it is important to recognise that post-Brexit, maintaining a focus on environmental standards and ambition in line with trading partners in future trading agreements will be important."
While “old habits are hard to break”, the Environment Minister says the pandemic has shown that islanders can adapt quickly and make significant changes in response to “emergency situations”.
“The way people have come together, forming new ways of working and collaborating will help us all to think about how we can work together to achieve carbon neutrality and change old travel patterns,” he explained.
“I believe tackling the climate emergency post-virus can be entirely in line with broader objectives for economic stimulus, consolidating behaviour change and embracing our communities hopes for a new type of future that can and should look different.”
Deputy Young said he will therefore ask the Citizens Assembly – a group of randomly selected islanders tasked with making recommendations on carbon neutrality to the Council of Ministers – to consider how the island can a carbon neutral future in the context of the recovery from the pandemic.
The panel should have already convened and started meetings, but this had to be postponed due to the health crisis.
Pictured: A carbon neutral future is compatible with economic recovery from the pandemic, according to Deputy Young.
The Minister said the Assembly is unlikely to convene before September, which will in turn delay the publication of the Long-Term Climate Action Plan until next summer.
“[The Citizen’s Assembly] is fundamental to the development of the Long-term Climate Action Plan, so we have made contingency plans and, depending on timing of the safe exit strategy, we will restart this process when the time is right and it is safe for us to do so,” Deputy Young said.
In addition, officers who were working on the Carbon Neutral Strategy have been redeployed to support the public health response to covid-19.
The pandemic could also have an impact on the Climate Emergency Fund - a money pot created to help the island towards a goal of achieving carbon neutrality.
£2m raised from fuel duty was due to be put into it this year.
However, the Minister hinted this may not be achieved as the 'Stay At Home' measures have led to a significant drop in vehicle use.
Pictured: The Citizens Assembly has been postponed.
“If the £2m needs to be adjusted to account for the reduced levels of achievement in fuel sales as a result of the lockdown and consequent reduced travel, this will need to be subject to a further States decision in a revised Government Plan," Deputy Young explained.
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