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Policy in the Pandemic

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Policy in the Pandemic

As revenue-starved utilities and governments search for places to save money in the pandemic-induced recession, investments in things like maintenance, infrastructure upgrades, and improved metering technology are getting shelved. Yet these are essential tools of utilities to increase reliability, reduce losses, and shift the culture of bill non-payment that has made the power sector Africa’s Achilles heel and slowed development for decades, write Jonathan Phillips, Robyn Meeks, and Victoria Plutshack.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and protests of disproportionate police killing of Black Americans opened up political opportunities for addressing racial disparities across our social institutions in the United States, including greater consideration of environmental justice. Kay Jowers and Kate Konschnik write about movement on environmental justice at both the state and federal levels over this year.

More than 20 million people in the United States lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19-imposed economic shutdowns, and less than half of those jobs have returned in the ensuing months. As a result, the pre-pandemic, pervasive struggle of low- and middle-income families to pay utility bills has been exacerbated by job losses and reductions in income, write Scott Bechler and Jennifer Weiss.

In the United States, organized protests are calling attention to a range of collective grievances, including structural racism, disproportionate police violence against Black Americans, and even COVID-19 pandemic-related actions. On Labor Day 2020, Kay Jowers reflects on how these issues tie into the movement for environmental justice.

This should have been a critical year for global climate change negotiations, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed COP26, UNFCCC's annual summit, until November 2021. Jackson Ewing writes about how the COVID gap year is affecting climate diplomacy and why the next 15 months are especially important for the path ahead.

Countries around the world are pledging stimulus funding to support infrastructure construction as a way to aid economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. Elizabeth Losos describes how a proposed community of learners could help direct that funding to sustainable infrastructure projects that "build back better."

The Federal Highway Administration has allowed food trucks to operate at interstate rest stops during the COVID-19 pandemic to support commercial truck drivers. Kate Konschnik explores how that could pave the way for electric vehicle infrastructure along federal highways.

Congress is debating another round of economic stimulus to provide a measure of emergency relief from shutdowns induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, but more help will likely be needed down the road for a full recovery. A proposed national green bank could put people back to work while building a sustainable future by creating jobs in clean energy infrastructure, clean transportation, and energy efficiency, writes Jennifer Weiss.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted momentum for government action to address plastic pollution. The authors of a global review of government responses over the last 20 years have observed complex impacts from the pandemic on international and national efforts. However, it seems local governments have pushed the pause button, particularly in the case of single-use plastics in the United States.

As Americans were put under stay-at-home orders and told to social distance this spring, many turned to parks for their mental and physical health. With travel and vacation limited in the coming months, they are increasingly looking to nearby parks to fill their recreational needs.