COVID-19:The world is not on the track to green recovery, finds UN report

Only 18% of recovery spending to deal with COVID-19 impact was green, the report said

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 12 March 2021
Only 18% of recovery spending to tackle the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was green. Photo: Flickr

Only 18 per cent of recovery spending announced by 50 largest economies to tackle the effect of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020 was green, according to analysis by Oxford’s Economic Recovery Project and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Only $368 billion of the total $14.6 trillion in fiscal measures announced was green, the report said, adding that it undermined efforts to build back sustainably.

A total of $66.1 billion was invested in low carbon energy, owing to Spanish and German subsidies for renewable energy projects and hydrogen and infrastructure investments, the report stated.

The Spain government allocated $7.2 billion to a ‘more inclusive energy’ transition. South Korea launched one of the strongest global green recovery programmes, allocating $53.6 billion to green investments.  

As much as $86.1 billion was announced for green transport through electric vehicle transfers and subsidies, investments in public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure.

Source: UNEP report

Among other findings of the report were:

  • $35.2 billion was announced for green building upgrades to increase energy efficiency, mostly through retrofits, notably in France and the UK.
  • $56.3bn was announced for natural capital that includes regeneration initiatives and reforestation. Two-fifths was directed towards public parks and counter pollution measures, notably in the US and China.
  • Significant investment was also directed to tree planting and biodiversity protection initiatives ($13.1 billion) as well as ecological conservation initiatives ($5.3 billion).
  • The United Kingdom’s fund involved around $54.9 million for the planting of 800,000 trees in rural and urban settings.
  • $28.9 billion was announced in green Research and Development (R&D), which includes renewable energy technologies, technologies for decarbonising sectors such as aviation, plastics, and agriculture as well as carbon sequestration.

UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen, said: 

“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 the Observatory gives them the tools to navigate to more sustainable and inclusive recoveries.”

Professor of environmental economics at Oxford, Cameron Hepburn, called the report 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,” he said. 


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