Reduced emissions during lockdown will not produce lasting benefits without further action, a leading climate change policy expert says.
New research from the University of Leeds suggests policies aimed to prevent Covid-19 from spreading will have a negligible impact on long-term warming.
Scientists calculated the recent reductions may only result in climate cooling of 0.005 to 0.01 degrees Celcius by 2030.
The research suggested global warming could potentially be kept within 1.5C if governments actively pursued climate change mitigation policy or a green recovery.
However, the findings also showed that if governments pursued a "green recovery" from the pandemic, then global warming could possibly be kept within 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2050.
New Zealand Climate Change Commissioner Catherine Leining said the research showed shifting away from fossil fuels and into low carbon technologies was essential to reduce global emissions.
"The short-lived behaviour change which reduced emissions during lockdown will not produce lasting climate benefits if we remain locked into fossil-fuel-dependent pathways," Leining said.
"The insights emerging from this study are clear. The world cannot afford to repeat the experience of the Global Financial Crisis, where global emissions fell by 1.4 percent in 2009 and then rebounded to an increase of 5.1 percent in 2010 as the world locked in the next decade of emissions growth.
The uncertainty we face in our economic recovery also creates enormous opportunity. 'Lockdown' must not mean 'lock in' to the fuels and technologies of our past."
The Climate Change Commission has developed six principles to use when making decisions on economic recovery to help shape the country's response.
They were aimed at avoiding detriment to the climate, avoid preventing New Zealand from meeting its climate targets, and avoid passing the hard work on to future generations, she said.
The six principles are:
- 1. Consider how investments can deliver long-term climate benefits
- 2. Bring forward transformational climate change investments that need to happen anyway
- 3. Prepare our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow
- 4. Work in partnership
- 5. Maintain incentives to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change
- 6. Change how we measure the success of economic recovery to include progress toward an inclusive, low-emissions and climate-resilient future.
"The challenge before us is not to predict our future, but to shape it," she said.