At the end of last year, sustainable investing was having its biggest moment. Climate change was a hot topic and green energy stocks were hitting new highs. Then Covid-19 hit and everything changed.

The global pandemic may be just what’s required to address the environmental crisis once and for all, says former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

Gore, as the chairman of $19.8 billion asset manager Generation Investment Management, has been investing directly in this arena for the past 16 years. He says in this conversation with Bloomberg News’s Emily Chasan that the coronavirus is unlike anything before — a once-in-a generation opportunity to rethink, reset and redesign the global economy.

Comments have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Emily Chasan: You work on looking at these sustainability trends all year, but just a few months ago everything stopped. Which of these long-term trends have seen significant changes during that time?

Al Gore: There is a rising awareness of the need for change. The data confirms the pandemic has triggered fundamental changes in consumer and social behavior, that’s matched by an acceleration in innovation by governments and businesses. We find that there is a growing awareness that the world’s collective social and economic fate is inextricably linked to that of the natural world.

EC: What has this shown you about how people change behavior and listen to scientists? Does this reveal anything about your long-time fight on climate change?

AG: The pandemic drove home that when the scientists — in this case epidemiologists and virologists — are giving you a clear warning that you have to prepare for something that’s headed your way, it’s best not to ignore them. Their advice can’t be just brushed off.

We also find that we’re going to have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions annually over the next decade by almost as much as we’ve seen emissions drop during the pandemic. Luckily, there are some fundamental changes in technology and business that give us an excellent chance to do this.

EC: Let’s start with health then. Generation has spent a lot of time investing in the health-care space, and in some senses, this is all related to creating a planet where humans can live healthy lives. What has changed in your view on health-care investing in this period?

AG: In many ways, the burden of this crisis has fallen unequally, reinforcing and revealing, and highlighting the existing unfairness across societies. Addressing these historical injustices has to be at the center of a transition to a more sustainable future. This has triggered new thinking on social safety nets and the role of essential workers. It revealed how uneven access to treatment has an enormous impact on the life expectancy for certain groups.

Weaknesses in preparedness and the capacity to respond to the type of all-encompassing crisis we are in now have relevance beyond health care. This sustainability revolution is going to have and is beginning to have a huge impact on the health sector.  Interest in direct-to-consumer health care has already quadrupled over the past five years, and in April this year, Covid-19 became one of the top five drivers of telehealth.

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