Countries ignore climate change in post-Covid budgets

Covid budgets
Covid budgets

What you need to know:

  • Report shows governments are investing very little in plans to stop climate change impact.
  • Governments need to invest in green projects

Efforts to curtail the impact of climate change have been hampered by decreased investment in green projects globally.

This is as governments channel most finances to recovery from the economic and social impact of Covid-19.

In essence, Covid-19 recovery efforts and spending have brought inequalities in sustainable development, experts say.

According to a UN Environment Programme (Unep) report, Covid-19 recovery spending has fallen short of nations’ commitments to sustainable growth.

One year into the pandemic, only 18 per cent of the spending can be considered ‘green’.

Unep in collaboration with Oxford’s Economic Recovery Project in the report, says only $368 billion (Sh40.3 trillion) of $14.6 trillion Covid-induced spending (rescue and recovery) in 2020 by 50 leading economies is green.

The report is titled Are We Building Back Better? Evidence from 2020 and Pathways for Inclusive Green Recovery Spending.

Professor of Environmental Economics at Oxford, Cameron Hepburn, said: “This report is a wake-up call. The data from the Global Recovery Observatory 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.”

Tackle inequalities

According to Unep, governments need to invest in green projects “and tackle inequalities as they stimulate growth in the wake of the devastation wrought by the pandemic’.

“Humanity is facing a pandemic, an economic crisis and an ecological breakdown - we cannot afford to lose on any front. Governments have a unique chance to put their countries on sustainable trajectories that prioritise economic opportunity, poverty reduction and planetary health at once,” said Unep’s Executive Director Inger Andersen.

The project is an observatory that gives nations the tools to navigate to more sustainable and inclusive recoveries, she said.

Brian O’Callaghan, the lead researcher at the Oxford University Economic Recovery Project and the report’s author said: “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.” “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.”

According to Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, monitoring of investments by countries to address the socio-economic effects of Covid-19 is vital for green and inclusive recovery.

The report stresses that nations can attain stronger economic growth through green recovery “while helping to meet global environmental targets and addressing structural inequality”.

According to Unep, so as to keep decades of progress against poverty from unwinding low-income countries, there is need for international partners to offer substantial affordable finance to these countries.

Nature loss

“On the whole, so far global green spending has been unequal to the scale of ongoing environmental crises,” the report states. These include climate change, nature loss, and pollution, missing significant social and long-term economic benefits.

Global recovery spending has so far missed the opportunity for green investment. Only $66.1 billion was invested in low carbon energy, “largely thanks to Spanish and German subsidies for renewable energy projects and hydrogen and infra-structure investments”.

According to the report, economies announced $86.1 billion for green transport through electric vehicle transfers and subsidies, investments in public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure and $35.2 billion was announced for green building upgrades so as to increase energy efficiency, mostly through retrofits, notably in France and the UK.

It also states that $56.3 billion was announced for nature based solutions which include ecosystem regeneration initiatives and reforestation.