Even before COVID19 struck Britain, less than a quarter of people here believed their children would be financially better off than themselves. Most thought inequality had increased too much, with benefits from growth skewed to those at the top. Concern over climate change had reached the highest levels since polling began, and the environment began to rank alongside the economy as a top priority for voters. Boris Johnson astutely read the mood of the country with an election manifesto centred on promises of levelling-up, raising investment in public services, and getting to net zero emissions.

Given the pandemic has exposed more clearly than ever the frailty and dangers of Britain’s pre-crisis economy, we can now expect even greater pressure from the public not to return to where we were when this is over. Already more than half of people say they want to fundamentally change how the economy works after the crisis, with just a quarter wanting it back to how it was.

Our vulnerability to supply chain shocks, brought home through the scramble to rustle up even basic medical supplies and testing facilities, has already begun forging a new political consensus on the need to rebuild and reshore more of our manufacturing capabilities, heightened by enlarged concerns about relying too heavily upon China. Our dependence on life-giving services from key workers on low-incomes is moving demands for higher wages and recognition for these frontline heroes to centre stage. So too is the disaster bolstering the argument for a renewed focus on cleaner and more resilient sources of jobs and growth when we rebuild. We can expect the driving forces that led Britain to adopt a Net Zero climate target in the first place to now become more pronounced.

For starters, we’ve had a stark reminder of the value of expert scientific opinion. On Covid19, the public have largely been prepared to give policy-makers the benefit of the doubt for their lack of preparedness. It seems unlikely politicians will be able to claim they didn’t appreciate the risks from climate shocks. Unlike with pandemics, in scientists’ climate models the most high-risk impacts are within their central scenarios. They tell us that without mitigation or migration, in fifty years time, some 3.5 billion people could be exposed to mean annual temperatures beyond almost anything that exists on Earth today. By 2030, flooding is expected to double so that 132 million people are at risk of river flooding. The IPCC tells us that if we want to avoid these worst impacts, and choose action against this other ‘invisible enemy’ in the air, between a fifth and a third of known reserves of oil, coal and gas must remain in the ground.

We no longer need to wonder what would happen if the government did suddenly, in the face of mounting and extreme threats to life, hit the emergency button and shut down the most polluting bits of our economy in the absence of a plan or strategy. We can see the consequences unfolding right now in the millions of stranded jobs in fossil fuel businesses. This will bring a renewed focus on the need to invest in the skills and training that people in these businesses will need to succeed in future.

According to new research out of the US and Italy, air pollution from petrol and diesel cars may be exacerbating the health impacts of Coronavirus. This will strengthen the case of those saying we must go green to protect the NHS and save lives. “We don’t have the evidence linking directly to mortality yet, but we know if you are exposed to air pollution you are increasing your chances of being more severely affected,” said Dr María Neira from the World Health Organization. This will embolden activism over pollution’s health impact, especially in cities where people are enjoying a new-found appreciation for clean air, cycling, and letting their children play outside.

All these factors, taken together with the drip-drip-drip of ever more dramatic scientific warnings and extreme weather experiences around us, will occur in a context of mounting economic opportunities available from cheap and clean technologies. Perhaps the case made by those siren voices seeking a Trump-style approach of ‘growth at any cost,’ fuelled by the new glut of cheap oil, would still be just too enticing for policy-makers were it not for the clear availability of another, more attractive economic strategy, one already winning support from across every shade of public and media opinion.

In 2030 we should live in a greener country with cleaner air. The swift and unprecedented transformation witnessed in the last decade in the power sector, which saw two hundred thousand jobs created in renewables like those in the turbine halls of Hull and Grimsby, must now be replicated in the transport and heating sectors. We can live in quieter cities too if Boris Johnson delivers on his promise, made in his first ever speech as Prime Minister, to seize the opportunities from battery technologies and phase out combustion engines and hybrid sales within a decade or so.

This new industrial revolution will likely accelerate in the run up to COP26, the biggest global summit Britain has hosted since the Olympic Games, and the first occasion since Brexit for the country to show leadership on the international stage. With an appetite to channel post-Covid recovery investment into job-creating schemes in every geography of the UK, millions can be put to work fitting electric car charging points, ending fuel poverty through a massive modernisation of heating systems and homes, and in laying new cycle paths and broadband networks. The upgrading of aircraft stocks to ensure airlines are using more efficient technologies and new fuels, which should be a condition of any aviation bailout, would also create thousands of new jobs in firms like Rolls Royce from Bristol to Derby.

Seeing the political opportunity to do a 21st Century Roosevelt, to meet people’s clamour for change and to build a safer and more balanced economy that will stand the test of time, Johnson will surely take this chance.