Good morning. The sun is shining. We open the window to our bedroom and poke out the nose into the fresh morning air. Yes, fresh morning air! Where are the fumes and exhaust gases? Evaporated into thin air! This week the World Economic Forum published some very interesting data for how the lockdowns have improved air quality around the world:
“Each tonne of NO₂ that isn’t emitted as a result of the pandemic is the equivalent of removing 62 cars per year from the road.” Looking at China, who emits over 50% of all the nitrogen dioxide in Asia, had a drop of 40% in NO₂ on 2019 levels for January and February which equals removing 192,000 cars. Cruise ships, another polluter, which have pretty much vanished around the globe during the last weeks. In the United Kingdom, local environmental groups have demonstrated that a single cruise ship can emit as much pollution as 700 trucks and as much particulate matter as a million cars.
Right now, we are in the middle of the largest ever global air pollution experiment. What will we take away? Will we learn or go back into bad habits when “this” is all over?
To keep up this air quality, countless organisations around the world urge that electromobility should be the way forward. But with COVID-19 it is expected that purchasing power will go down and consumers will be less likely to be able to afford a fully electric vehicle. Incentives will be necessary for commuters and for businesses so that they are able to afford electric delivery vans and cars.
E-ferries are also a real good start to make marine traffic more eco-friendly – an area most countries seem to neglect in their policies. Public tenders reflect national politics – which is a great way to steer the country into the right direction.
Experiencing Malta without pollution of cruise ships and cars is a treat and a noticeable difference for everyone. My question is, if it is now the time to limit the amount of cruise ships and to foster the change towards a more sustainable mobility, such as electromobility, ride pooling, car sharing and third-party deliveries for food and grocery.
This global air pollution experiment shows us how the future could look like: how beautiful it could be – but of course also how challenging. Governments, businesses, and consumers have now the opportunity to consider their options and plan, so we do not lose again what we have just recovered.
Happy Earth Day.
Written by Nicoletta Moss
Images: Anastasiia Tarasova; Jack Finnigan