Lockdown had a positive impact on the climate but there are challenges ahead, say Sheffield council

Sheffield’s environment improved during lockdown but there needs to be major changes to get to grips with the climate emergency.

Friday, 27th November 2020, 4:45 pm

Mark Whitworth, sustainability and climate change manager at Sheffield Council, said the pandemic was having “a devastating, and often inequitable, impact” on communities and residents.

He said: “We recognise that, in these very challenging times, climate change may not be at the forefront of peoples’ minds as we deal with the immediate and often very difficult impacts of the current pandemic.

“However, there are some opportunities. Some of the changes in behaviour such as increased working from home, using technology more and travelling less could have a positive effect on the climate.

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There needs to be a significant shift to electric vehicles and active travel, says Sheffield Council

“The situation has pushed us to re-evaluate how we live and work, valuing our communities and green spaces more, and noting and appreciating better air quality and less traffic during lockdown.

“Covid has meant that some attention is taken from the climate agenda, but there is strong public sentiment that, in recovering from a human and economic disaster, change is required.”

Mr Whitworth warned although there have been some temporary reductions in emissions during lockdown, people should not be complacent.

“Previous economic crises suggest that emissions may potentially increase as the economy seeks to recover.

“People are expected to increase car use as a result of concern about the safety of travelling on public transport.

“Recent research found 26 per cent of people in the UK expected to use their car more since Covid, compared with nine per cent who said they would use it less. The need to act has not gone away.”

The electricity used in Sheffield is becoming cleaner but transport is still a “big chunk” of carbon emissions and hasn’t reduced very much at all.

“It’s that reduction in car miles, not just switching to electric vehicles, but a significant shift away from people using vehicles and looking at active travel as a way of getting around the city.

“One of the big things is going to mean a phase out of gas for heating and cooking and we have probably 200,000 homes affected by that so clearly that is something that certainly is quite a significant challenge.

“There’ll be new technologies and there’ll be requirements for new skills and new jobs for people to come in and actually fit those systems, and that’s where we see one of the big opportunities around the zero carbon economy.”

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