Our global Covid recovery plans are still not giving enough attention to sustainability

Madeleine Cuff writes on the inews website that less than a fifth of the Covid recovery spending announced by governments around the world has been earmarked for green projects. How do we get that to change?


Less than 20 per cent of global Covid recovery spending is green, report says

Despite promises to “build back better” after the pandemic, less than a fifth of the Covid recovery spending announced by governments around the world has been earmarked for green projects, according to a major new report.

Of the £10.5tr ($14.6tr) of Covid-induced spending, just £265bn ($368bn) – 18 per cent – went to green projects such as renewable energy, low-carbon transport or building upgrades.

The report, led by the University of Oxford and the UN Environment Programme, is billed as the most comprehensive analysis of Covid-19-related fiscal rescue and recovery efforts by 50 leading economies so far.

Around two to three per cent of total recovery spending was “brown”, pushing up emissions, report authors said. But the remaining 80 per cent of ‘neutral’ spending supports the polluting status quo, they stressed.

“This report is a wake-up call,” said Cameron Hepburn, Professor of Environmental Economics at Oxford. “The data show that we are not building back better, at least not yet. We know a green recovery would be a win for the economy as well as the climate – now we need to get on with it.”

Spain and Germany have led the way in spending on low-carbon energy, according to the report, providing the bulk of the £47.5bn ($66.1bn ) of global spending on renewable power and hydrogen investments. Meanwhile the US and China have helped funnel £40.4bn ($56.3bn) on nature regeneration projects and reforestation.

But for the “vast majority” of countries, recovery spending has been relatively low and “minimally green”, the report concluded.

The UK is something of an outlier. It has one of the largest Covid spending packages of any developed country, spending more than 10 per cent of GDP on its economic recovery. But little more than 10 per cent of its spending package is ‘green’, according to the analysis, far less than the likes of Spain, South Korea, France or Germany.

Lead author Brian O’Callaghan. O’Callaghan said countries have not lived up to their promises. “Despite positive steps towards a sustainable Covid-19 recovery from a few leading nations, the world has so far fallen short of matching aspirations to build back better,” he said.

But he said nations still have time to change course as the global economy emerges from the grip of Covid-19. “But opportunities to spend wisely on recovery are not yet over. Governments can use this moment to secure long-term economic, social, and environmental prosperity,” he stressed.

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