The pandemic is an unexpected opportunity for climate action

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The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting lives and livelihoods around the globe and shaking our economic systems to their core. 

Many governments have taken immediate measures to protect jobs and reduce the impact on vulnerable populations. They will also prepare fiscal stimulus packages to restart the economy once the health emergency is over. 

But this large increase in public spending and investment should not be used to revert to business as usual. The COVID-19 shock has opened a window of opportunity to scale up urgently needed climate action.  Governments and international financial institutions should use the current crisis to prevent future climate crises.

Most countries have national adaptation plans, climate change policies and low-carbon development strategies in place. Even though the need for action is undisputed, funding is often insufficient. When designing their fiscal stimulus packages, governments should now prioritize climate-smart investments. Some of these projects can be prepared and implemented quickly, others will need more time.

1.    Invest in renewable energy. There are mature technologies that can be brought to scale. As renewables are often more labor-intensive than fossil fuel-based power plants, this will create urgently needed jobs. In the medium term, increasing access to electricity can stimulate economic growth. For many developing countries, investing in renewable energy will improve energy security, reduce the dependence on fossil fuel imports, and lessen the fiscal burden of fossil fuel subsidies. Clean energy will also reduce air pollution and contribute to better health outcomes in the long run.

2.    Invest in low carbon infrastructure. Public works create jobs in the construction sector, which is an important economic pillar in many developing countries. Investments in public transport and solid waste management have a direct positive effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Governments can also provide credit lines to construction companies and households, while requiring that investments comply with building regulations for dealing with natural hazards. Governments should also set and enforce standards for energy efficient designs as well as the use of renewable energy sources and energy efficient equipment. In the medium to long term, creating an enabling environment to promote local green investments and green procurement can further help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

3.    Invest in climate change adaptation. Investments in protective infrastructure, water and sanitation, social housing, irrigation, and ecosystem rehabilitation will not only create jobs but also address basic needs and make people more resilient to the future impacts of climate change. Many of these interventions will take place at the subnational level and can be staffed with local hires whose pay will generate income for local communities. When transferring funds to subnational entities, central governments should earmark them for climate-related investments.

4.    Maintain carbon taxes and fuel tariffs. In the current situation, suspending carbon taxes and lifting tariffs on fossil fuel imports has limited economic impact. And while doing little good economically, such measures would send a very wrong signal to consumers and producers.  They might also be difficult to reverse down the line.  

At this critical juncture, channeling extraordinary public investment into climate action can catalyze the shift toward pathways to more sustainable development.

In this unprecedented crisis, governments and the international community have an opportunity to create a healthier planet for current and future generations. We must not miss it.  

Authors

Xenia Kirchhofer

Junior Professional Officer

Join the Conversation

Dhirendra Krishna
April 07, 2020

Effective combat against corona-virus is highly decentralised. Every individual has to prevent entry of the virus in his house. The boundary has shrunk, as the battle is to be fought in every household. Public administration system in every country has to promote individual actions, in a highly decentralised war. There is conceptual similarity with the war to prevent the adverse effects of climate change; both require individual actions, supported by the governance processes. In my view this is an unexpected opportunity to promote higher level of decentralisation and more effective role assigned to the local bodies as institutions of self-governance. In my humble opinion, World Bank should promote this idea.

Fritz Kirchhofer
April 07, 2020

I fully agree

David Harold Chester
April 07, 2020

As far as I can see, governments are already anticipating how much more they will continue to allow industry to pollute the atmosphere and generate more unfavorable gasses, once the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic begins to ease. Much as a significant reduction of these gases would be welcomed by the climate conservatives, there is no serious intention for our air pollution to remain at its currently reduced level.

Gliriya
April 07, 2020

Suport my nation

El' Precedente Heir Christ
April 07, 2020

Looking forward,
Erika Blakely

Giancarlo
April 07, 2020

Ok grazie per aver centrato il problema: in concreto solo la coscienza collettiva unità agli ideali di gruppo porterà la comunità scientifica unità a costringere i governi a cambiare prima di ulteriori eventi. Semper Ad Maiora

Giancarlo
April 30, 2020

Ok grazie per aver centrato il problema: in concreto solo la coscienza collettiva unità agli ideali di gruppo porterà la comunità scientifica unità a costringere i governi a cambiare prima di ulteriori eventi. Semper Ad Maiora

Giancarlo
April 30, 2020

Ok grazie per aver centrato il problema: in concreto solo la coscienza collettiva unità agli ideali di gruppo porterà la comunità scientifica unità a costringere i governi a cambiare prima di ulteriori eventi. Semper Ad Maiora

Giancarlo
April 30, 2020

Ok grazie per aver centrato il problema: in concreto solo la coscienza collettiva unità agli ideali di gruppo porterà la comunità scientifica unità a costringere i governi a cambiare prima di ulteriori eventi. Semper Ad Maiora

Ramesh
April 07, 2020

Yes, it's a crystal clear fact to understand about climate change. And it's a very painful time to come out from this pandemic situation.

But as per the blog., The future of catastrophic situation is all about climatic conditions disturbances. Global warming and clear sky with naturally recovery awareness to be undertaken by every individual.

Nature is the ultimate source for all of our lives.

Luke Wanjala Kapchanga
April 07, 2020

Very informative piece. However, in places like Africa, who is going to listen. As the leadership has placed out an outstretched arms seeking outside help to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

IIHMR University
April 30, 2020

Maintain distance of 1 meter (3 feet) between yourself and anybody who is sneezing or coughing as it can lead to acquiring Covid-19 infection.
Check on - https://www.iihmr.edu.in/covid19