Trevor Gibson, Smart City Manager for Opportunity Peterborough answers some of our questions the impact of Covid-19 on green initiatives and the possibility of a ‘green recovery’ from Covid-19.
Trevor is currently Smart City Leadership and Development Manager with Opportunity Peterborough and was part of the Peterborough team which successfully bid to be one of the UK’s four Future City Demonstrators funded by the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK). He continues to help develop and deliver the resultant “Future Peterborough” programme and chairs the British Standards Institute (BSI) Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities Committee (SDS/2) which, amongst other activities, oversees the development of BSI’s suite of Smart City Standards.
What do you think the impact of Covid-19 has been on local climate change initiatives?
I guess the impact has been mixed. On the one hand, reduced travel and electricity demand has had measurable benefits on the atmosphere on a scale and at a speed that campaigners could once only have dreamed off.
On the other, I suspect that the Climate Change challenge has slipped down the priority list for many organisations as they seek to cope with the impacts and recover and rebuild for the future. I dread the think of the amount of packing that has been used in the sudden shift to deliveries rather than high street shopping.
Only time will tell how much of the progress gained will be lost in the rush for economic recovery and how long it will take for Climate Change to regain the priority “top slot”.
Do you expect there to be a ‘green recovery’ post-Covid?
The key is getting the message across that “green” initiatives can and indeed should be an essential part of the recovery process. Resource efficiency, zero waste and sharing approaches, all part of the drive towards a more circular economic model, also have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.
This is even more relevant when one considers that organisations must improve and embed future resilience using the learning gained during the Covid-19 lockdown. Many will have developed new partnerships, learned new skills, adopted new technologies and embedded new ways of working all at an unprecedented pace.
Wherever possible, this learning should form the starting point for the post-Covid era rather than it being lost in the recovery process.
What do you anticipate the barriers to this will be?
Undoubtedly the main priority in the short term has to be on getting things back up and running to secure jobs and rebuild the economy. Because this too will have to be done at pace, there is a danger that sustainability will not be seen as central to this phase. However, a big opportunity to embed recent learning will be lost if this is allowed to happen.
How can local authorities and other organisations incorporate green principles into their recovery initiatives?
There is a significant opportunity to make the links between economic recovery and building a greener economy as part of that process. Local authorities and other organisations should promote the relevance of, for example, circular economy principles.
The key message for all organisations, however, remains the same; whatever form the self-reflection takes they must find ways to capture what they have learned from the unforeseen and forced Covid-19 experiment. Returning to “business as usual” may not be the best strategy. Asking the right questions will be key as will acting on the answers.
Not only will this help local authorities and other organisations recover from the economic shock to their systems, it will also build and embed resilience against future shocks whatever their source.