The pandemic may have changed the way many of us work forever, with a great increase in telework. As the world looks for an economic recovery from the pandemic, telework just might be a valuable contribution to ensuring that it’s a green recovery.
“Even if it’s too early to say what the long-term consequences will be, returning to the past seems unlikely and undesirable,” says Adélaïde Zulfikarpasic, director of opinion poll firm BVA, interviewed on the European Investment Bank’s award-winning Climate Solutions podcast.
“We must use this unprecedented situation to think collectively of the advantages that the crisis has imposed on companies.”
A study from McKinsey, The future of work after COVID-19, suggests that about 25% of the labour force in advanced economies could telework between three to five days per week without loss of productivity.
The study finds that:
- Remote work has led some companies and employees to relocate from urban centres to less costly zones. It now also allows employers to attract a skilled workforce that cannot afford to move to expensive cities
- Business travel may decrease by 20% after the pandemic, but leisure travel will most likely return
- Digital technologies, artificial intelligence and e-commerce have surged during the pandemic and will most likely continue to do so after
So, the pandemic is shaping a different employment landscape and is changing our lifestyle and habits, as citizens, consumers and workers. What does this mean for climate change?
Citizens voice their opinions on recovery
The third edition of the European Investment Bank’s Climate Survey found that:
- A majority of respondents in the EU, the UK and China, as well as 49% of Americans, think that the post-COVID economic recovery should take into account the climate crisis. That is, the recovery should be “green”
- Citizens are ready to accept stricter government measures to tackle climate change
On the question of which areas of action should be prioritised to fight climate change, citizens across all four markets surveyed cite transport in second place. Digitalisation of companies is on the list too, though not in the top three answers. Telework is cited as one of the means to help climate both under the area of transport (because fewer commutes mean lower carbon emissions) and of digitalisation.
This suggests that telework can be part of the solution. So what else can we do to respond to climate change?
To regulate or not to regulate
The Climate Survey reveals two main camps. Europeans cite a radical change in habits such as cutting back on meat, giving up their cars or reducing flying as the most significant ways to limit climate change. On the other hand, technological improvements rank first among American and Chinese respondents’ replies.
“This sanitary crisis could be a critical juncture between the past and the future. It will take a long time to change, and for that politics or economics are necessary,” says Martial Foucault, director of the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po, also on the Climate Solutions podcast.
Foucault explains that the different views on the two sides of the Atlantic are due to how the role of the state is perceived.
“The role of technology and progress is closely related to liberal democracy. In the US this means that the state has not to intervene too much in the society and the economy. In Europe it’s different,” he says. “I’m not saying that progress comes only from the state. But public regulations are really important and that’s currently the big debate at a European level”.
There’s no vaccine for climate change, but for a global challenge to be addressed, perhaps the combination of efforts made by governments, corporates and citizens could make a difference. So give it your best shot.
Listen to our Climate Solutions podcast to find out more from experts and hear about what you can do to help the climate.