COVID-19 does not mean climate action is on hold 1

If the world has seen a scary future with the emergence of COVID-19, the future of our planet in a 3-4° C scenario takes us to an entirely different level of uncertainty, including in terms of health.

Fundamental to a transformational and green recovery will be early action on a longer-term agenda to address climate change, avoid habitat loss and fragmentation, reverse the loss of biodiversity, reduce pollution and improve waste management and infrastructure.

Confronted with a health crisis that has caused a global social and economic shock, the European Union and countries around the world are adopting major economic support programmes.

Beyond direct health responses, fiscal stimulus packages provide an opportunity for initiating a transformational and green recovery with the creation of green jobs.

A new report by the Paris-based think tank I4CE Institute for Climate Economics, titled Investing in climate can help France drive its economic recovery, calls for a public finance package of 7 billion euros which it believes could trigger 19 billion euros of additional public and private investment. Such a stimulus package would contribute to the economic recovery post-crisis and make France more resilient to future shocks, without reducing its contribution to international climate goals, it says.

“I4CE is convinced that climate action is not an obstacle to crisis recovery, but an effective response to the demand for resilience that is likely to emerge across Europe,” says Ian Cochran, I4CE Program Director for Financial Institutions.

Prioritizing the environment, the economy and health

I4CE believes a recovery package must prioritize outcomes relating to:

  • The environment: by maintaining the credibility of the European Green Deal, by preserving the industrial capital of low-carbon sectors, by adapting the economy to climate change.
  • The economy: by contributing to the revival of businesses in the short term while simultaneously reducing exposure to future crises such as oil price shocks, or the collapse of food and industrial supply chains.
  • Health: by reducing the vulnerability of society to health threats, particularly by improving air quality and reducing fuel poverty.

Based on its assessment of the investments embodied in the French national climate strategy, I4CE  has identified 30 pro-climate, pro-recovery investments to retrofit public and private housing and other buildings, deploy low-emission passenger vehicles, and develop urban public transport infrastructure, rail infrastructure, cycle paths and renewable electricity.

To achieve this, it says the French State should increase the existing level of support for climate investment by an additional 4.3 billion euros per year (1.3 billion euros for off taking guarantees for renewable electricity producers and 3 billion euros for the co-financing of households, companies and local governments that undertake new investments).

The researchers believe local governments will need to increase current levels of investment and co-financing by 2.1 billion euros per year, supported by the central government. State-owned banks should increase their new commitments to businesses, local governments and project companies by 2.3 billion euros per year.

“The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and others believe large-scale fiscal stimulus packages are an opportunity to set economies and societies on a more resilient path in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda,” says Ligia Noronha, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division.

According to UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2019, we must cut global emissions 7.6 per cent every year of the next decade if we are to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. This requires every country in the world to step up five-fold.

Nature is in crisis, threatened by biodiversity and habitat loss, global heating and toxic pollution. Failure to act is failing humanity. Addressing the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and protecting ourselves against future global threats requires sound management of hazardous medical and chemical waste; strong and global stewardship of nature and biodiversity; and a clear commitment to “building back better”, creating green jobs and facilitating the transition to carbon neutral economies. Humanity depends on action now for a resilient and sustainable future.