Some climate-friendly behaviours adopted by people during the Covid-19 pandemic may endure once lockdown measures end, claims a Swiss Re behavioural economist.

The reinsurance company’s head of behavioural research Alison McLean said in a blog post the disruption to people’s lives brought about through stay-at-home orders may open them up to adopting new habits.

“Our habits are powerful drivers of behaviour,” she said. “But old habits are disrupted in a state of ‘habit discontinuity’ whenever there are sustained changes in our environment

“Discontinuity is abundant in times of coronavirus. Many of the cues in our environment that usually prompt our habitual responses are missing.

“The largely automatic process of getting ready to head out for work, initially cued by our alarm, is displaced.

“The coronavirus disruptions we’re experiencing with working from home and minimising travel can signify a fresh start that allows us to form new aspirations around sustainable travel.”

The link between climate change and extreme weather events, the sum of which cost insurers $137bn in 2019, is well documented.

But McLean said the question remains to what extent governments will emphasise sustainability in their economic recovery strategy, and whether people will adopt a more carbon-conscious lifestyle.