The COVID-19 imposed lockdown has led to a number of temporary environmental side effects (reduced global emissions, cleaner air, less noise), that the climate community has aspired to achieve over a number of decades. However, these benefits have been achieved at a massive cost to welfare and the economy. This commentary draws lessons from the COVID-19 crisis for climate change. It discusses whether there are more sustainable ways of achieving these benefits, as part of a more desirable, low carbon resilient future, in a more planned, inclusive and less disruptive way. In order to achieve this, we argue for a clearer social contract between citizens and the state. We discuss how COVID-19 has demonstrated that behaviours can change abruptly, that these changes come at a cost, that we need a ‘social mandate’ to ensure these changes remain in the long-term, and that science plays an important role in informing this process. We suggest that deliberative engagement mechanisms, such as citizens’ assemblies and juries, could be a powerful way to build a social mandate for climate action post-COVID-19. This would enable behaviour changes to become more accepted, embedded and bearable in the long-term and provide the basis for future climate action.
Building a Social Mandate for Climate Action: Lessons from COVID-19
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