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Is Covid-19 An Opportunity To Reset Our Corporate Baselines?

What’s happening? Airlines could be held to more stringent limits on carbon emissions because the reduction in flights caused by the Covid-19 pandemic means 2020 emissions will be unusually low. 

Why does this matter? Under the UN’s Corsia aviation offsetting scheme it was agreed to effectively limit aviation emissions, which are not covered under the Paris Agreement on climate change, to 2020 levels – by offsetting all future growth against this baseline. 

As the airline industry collapses, with thousands of flights grounded and revenue losses of up to $113bn projected, emissions in 2020 will be far lower than forecast. This means airlines will have to base all future emissions performance against this outlier year, which is potentially good news for the climate. That is unless they try and revise the baseline, which environmentalists warn would be a “dangerous mistake”. 

The airlines’ response to this unprecedented set of circumstances so far has been to ask for help. But similar to the US car industry bailouts in 2012, which were predicated on producing less-polluting models, US Democrats are calling for any aid to airlines to come with requirements to improve environmental performance.

More broadly, the point has been made that post-virus stimulus packages should be green in nature, and that doubling down on fossil fuel industries to kick-start economies would be at the detriment of both the climate and new job creation. 

As citizens unexpectedly experience the benefits of lower urban air pollution and cleaner water, will businesses come under more pressure to emerge from this period in a more responsible manner?

Covid-19 could fundamentally change our way of life. It could also provide a historic opportunity to build a better society, and to reimagine business in a future-proofed and more sustainable manner.

Nick Finegold is Founder & CEO of Curation Corp, an emerging and peripheral risks monitoring service.

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