THERE are precious few upsides to be found in the Covid pandemic but one of them may yet be the benefit to the environment. In May of this year the International Energy Agency estimated that as a result of Covid the world will use six per cent less this year – equivalent to losing the entire energy demand of India.

In terms of electricity alone, full lockdowns across the world have pushed global electricity down by 20 per cent. Less travel by road and air has also led to a huge fall in CO2 concentrations and consequently cleaner air in our cities.

As we tread carefully into the next few months and a new normal develops, how might the environmental benefits be kept and even accelerated in order to meet the even bigger threat and crisis of climate change?

At the end of June of this year, Parliament’s Committee on Climate Change published its annual report urging the Government to seize the opportunity to turn the Covid-19 crisis into a defining moment. Such action will need to recognise both that the country is facing its biggest economic shock for a generation whilst the global crisis of climate change is accelerating.

Whilst government will need to develop global strategies, there are easier, more simple steps open to each of us locally and practically that means each of us can play our own part in the stewardship of the planet entrusted to us.

One of the easiest is to change the search engines we use. Founded in 2009, the online search engine Ecosia makes its money in the same way as Google – from advertising revenues. It earns cash every time someone clicks on one of the adverts that appears above and beside its search results. Ecosia then donates 80 per cent of its profits to tree-planting charities which to date it has funded more than 105 million new trees, from Indonesia to Brazil, and Kenya to Haiti. The Berlin-based business says it has 15 million users, a tiny drop in the ocean compared with Google’s estimated 5.6 billion searches per day, but its founder Christian Kroll says he has ambitions to “scale massively, win more users, and plant billions of trees”.

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More locally in the North-East, for the past months Tom Bray, a carbon and energy projects officer at Durham County Council, has produced a services of short highly watchable youtube videos on living a low carbon lifestyle that seeks to nudge each of us to make small changes that will lead to collective benefits across the county.

And at the heart of Durham a new project is being investigated with the developers of the council’s new headquarters, seeking to create a green space at the heart of the city for residents, workers and visitors, with opportunities to work in partnership with schools and colleges to learn how to care for and nurture our shared environment.

The Covid crisis has provided numerous examples of how things could have been done better and how lessons could have been learned.

In the coming climate change crisis, the opportunities to plan and act now, at a global, regional and local level, have never been more needed or urgent.

  • Arun Arora is vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham