The Guardian view on climate progress: the need for speed | Editorial

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The transformation of the US government’s stance on the environment is hugely significant. Now the global green recovery must start

The year ahead is an absolutely crucial one in the struggle to keep global heating below 1.5C or 2C, above which the UN has warned of chaos. John Kerry, who is President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, told the BBC that the conference of the parties (Cop26) due to take place in Glasgow in November is the “last best chance the world has … to do what science is telling us we need to do”. Important as the talks are, the decisions taken between now and then are just as significant.

Last year saw an unprecedented drop of 7% in greenhouse gas emissions, due to Covid, but a rebound is expected. It is here that attention must now be focused. As governments around the world pump money into economies ravaged by the pandemic, a return to business as usual would be catastrophic. Research carried out after the 2008 financial crash showed that the recovery then was about 16% green, with the majority of stimulus spending directed at carbon-intensive infrastructure and activities. This time, green investment must be more than an add-on. Governments must proactively channel public funds towards renewable energy, green transport infrastructure, home insulation – and away from fossil fuels, especially coal.

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