Former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney says the world's response to the COVID-19 pandemic could build momentum for a collaborative approach to the other great global crisis: climate change.
In an interview on CBC's Rosemary Barton Live airing Sunday, Carney said the fact that virtually no country has escaped the health and economic effects of the coronavirus is leading to a broader recognition that global problems require collective solutions.
"We can't self-isolate from climate change," Carney told host Rosemary Barton. "Ultimately, we'll all be affected. So we all have to act."
His comments come as Canada and the world mark one year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries shut down schools and workplaces, closed borders to travellers, procured massive amounts of personal protective equipment and enforced public health measures, such as physical distancing, to contain the virus.
The year also saw unprecedented scientific collaboration as scientists and public health experts around the world sought to understand how the virus spreads and find the best ways to fight it. Vaccines — which offer the best hope of bringing the pandemic to an end — were developed in record time.
Bringing science to the fore
Carney said the pandemic brought science and public health expertise to the fore in public policy, highlighting the vital role that scientists and expert advice play in solving large problems.
"There's a recognition that the advice of scientists should be listened to. They advised on the risks of pandemics and we didn't fully listen to them anywhere in the world," said Carney.
"They've been advising for a long time of the risks on climate change. It is time to listen."
In a new book to be released next week — Value(s): Building a Better World for All — Carney argues that the pandemic has given people an opportunity to "sit back and reflect" on what they value most. He said the values he's seen emerging are sustainability, solidarity and fairness across generations — all of which, he said, require more comprehensive action on climate change.
"During this [pandemic], quite rightly, governments have taken big steps, a lot of borrowing," said Carney. "That is borrowing from the future unless we now focus on the future and build a better future."
'Huge economic opportunity'
Carney, who serves as a special envoy to the United Nations for climate and finance, is advising the United Kingdom's government as it prepares to host the next UN climate summit, known as COP 26, in Glasgow, Scotland in November.
He said that part of the meeting will focus on how the private financial sector can "retool" so that companies take climate change into account when making financial decisions.
In Canada, Carney said, the move to a sustainable, low-carbon economy offers a "huge economic opportunity." Carney said Alberta's energy industry, which is one of the country's largest industrial emitters, could help to drive that transition through investments in research and development.
"If we can take this opportunity as Canadians to address the issue, respect that there are multiple ways to improve sustainability in this country, build a sustainable future but also build a very strong economy alongside, that would be a tremendous outcome from what has been an extraordinarily difficult year," said Carney.
You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.