The storychanging case for a Green Recovery

“If this recovery is to be sustainable – if our world is to become more resilient – we must do everything in our power to promote a green recovery. In other words, taking measures now to fight the climate crisis is not just a ‘nice-to-have’. It is a ‘must-have’ if we are to leave a better world for our children.”
~ Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund

World’s top financial experts call for a #GreenRecovery

A study from Oxford University, led by Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, found that projects that cut greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate economic activity would provide higher short and long term returns on government spending than traditional stimulus spending.

Investing in clean infrastructure, the study shows, would actually offer a stronger economic recovery. Not only that, but a green stimulus would also improve the quality of life for vulnerable low-income and minority communities that have been burdened by the harmful effects of pollution for generations, wrote NCR’s Jesse Remedios.

According to the world’s top financial experts the most effective solutions to revive the global economy are those that reduce carbon emissions. Clean energy research and infrastructure, and zero-carbon transportation were among the top preferences for economic policies that could be deployed quickly, bring favorable long-term returns and contribute to lowering emissions. Many renewable energy projects have continued despite the pandemic, indicating the market is capable of weathering short-term fluctuations and is poised to contribute to economic recovery efforts.

“What is clear now is we need jobs and activity. Because renewables are competitive, it is a mature technology. This is actually the kind of activity that you can do straightforward, immediately.”
~ Xabier Viteri, director of the renewable energy business for Iberdrola

So, you can only wonder what it is that is holding our elected leaders back from stepping into action mode?

Bloomberg wrote: “The world appears to have reached the limit of its tolerance for economic disruption. Even as the novel virus continues to put lives at risk, governments around the world are beginning the process of reopening. More than $7 trillion has been committed to relief efforts just in the past three months, and many more trillions will need to be injected into the global economy in the coming months to help to help it recover.

With so much at stake, it matters whether governments get bang for their bucks. The world’s top financial thinkers agree: many of the most effective solutions are also those that reduce carbon emissions. That conclusion comes from a survey of more than 200 central bankers, G-20 finance minsters, and top academics from across 53 countries…”

→ Bloomberg – 5 May 2020:
Green Stimulus Finds Support From G-20 Officials, Central Bankers

→ The Guardian – 13 May 2020:
Seizing the moment: how Australia can build a green economy from the Covid-19 wreckage
“As the government prepares plans for economic recovery, investors and green groups alike say this is a once-only opportunity to move towards zero emissions. This is the first a new series, The Green Recovery, looking at the environmental challenges of a post-pandemic world.

Crunch time

“The amount of money governments and central banks are preparing to spend on Covid-19 economic recovery is so massive that it will inevitably shape humanity’s chances of climate survival. If those trillions of dollars are invested in shoring up the industries and infrastructure of the incumbent fossil fuel economy, it will lock in rising temperatures for decades to come, ensuring climate catastrophe. If those trillions are instead invested in transforming the world to a zero-carbon economy, they could rescue millions of people from unemployment and poverty and open vast investment opportunities for businesses, while perhaps also preserving a livable planet in the bargain.

Some 71 percent of the public believes that the climate crisis is as serious in the long run as the Covid-19 pandemic is in the short run. So says a survey of 28,000 people in fourteen countries that Ipsos conducted in late April, a time when COVID-19 death tolls around the world were soaring and daily conversation and news coverage focused on little else. What’s more, 65 percent said that the stimulus spending countries are orchestrating to revive battered economies should also fight climate change. In short, an overwhelming majority of the public—more than two out of three people—cares about the climate crisis and wants leaders to take strong action, now.”
~ Covering Climate Now


→ 9News / AAP – 25 May 2020:
Diverse groups back move to clean economy
“An unlikely alliance of business and environment groups have banded together to make a stand on the importance of a cleaner economy. The group say that beyond the coronavirus pandemic, Australia’s prosperity depends on dealing with long-term challenges like moving towards net zero emissions. The alliance includes the Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia, St Vincent de Paul Society, Property Council of Australia, Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.”

“If any return to the “normal” that has so horrifically failed us is unthinkable, where does the future begin?”

→ The Guardian – 17 May 2020:
‘Normal’ life failed us. The coronavirus crisis gives us the chance to rethink a new economy
“It’s now clear that drastic changes are needed: the Labour party cannot afford to play it safe.” By John Harris

→ The Guardian – 15 May 2020:
Large areas of London to be made car-free as lockdown eased
“Mayor Sadiq Khan says city needs to be repurposed for people as it emerges from coronavirus restrictions.”

→ Civil Notion – 14 May 2020:
Climate Policy In A Post-Pandemic Economy — It’s the Jobs, Stupid

→ GreenBiz – 8 May 2020:
Leading economists: Green COVID-19 recovery best for jobs and growth
“Climate-friendly stimulus policies to reboot economies in the wake of the coronavirus crisis offer a far better mechanism for boosting jobs and growth, compared to unconditional bailouts for high-carbon industries, a major new analysis by a group of leading economists has found.”

→ NCR Online – 24 April 2020:
Climate crisis will deepen the pandemic; A green stimulus plan can tackle both
“To tackle all these crises at once, we need a Green Stimulus that creates jobs and lifts up communities in ways that also slash carbon pollution, increase resiliency, and develop a just, modern economy.”

“A lesson from the [global financial crisis] is that green stimulus policies often have advantages over traditional fiscal stimulus,” the researchers write in a report slated to be published in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy. For example, renewable energy projects yield lots of jobs when they are needed in the short run, but require fewer people for longer-term operation and maintenance, freeing up workers to take new jobs as the economy recovers.”
~ Will COVID-19 fiscal recovery packages accelerate or retard progress on climate change?

→ Anthropocene Magazine – 12 May 2020:
Post-pandemic stimulus could accelerate climate progress—or lock in fossil fuels for decades
“200+ of the world’s senior economists make the case for a green coronavirus recovery”

Victory plan

“Modeled in part on the civilian mobilization for World War II, the Victory Plan would be carried out by a broad array of agencies, including a Climate Mobilization Board, which would administer caps on fossil fuels and materials and oversee production goals. The Mobilization Board would be an analog of the War Production Board of the 1940s. Another agency from that era, the Office of Price Administration, would be revived under its original name to oversee price controls and rationing.”
~ Stan Cox

In his new book, The Green New Deal and Beyond, hot off the press at City Lights Books, author Stan Cox makes the case that even though the Green New Deal Resolution is broad, it doesn’t cover all environmental and economic issues. Rather, he suggests a new ‘Victory Plan’ that would entail caps on fossil fuels and ration energy use down to the individual household level, acknowledging limits to growth and the need for a steady state economy.

The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can
By Stan Cox
City Lights Books
$16.95

Review
Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy chapter director Gerry Greaves offers his review of Cox’s book in the Steady State Herald. Greaves opines, “Dr. Cox has offered some bold ideas. It’s up to the rest of us to read them and join the conversation.”


Release: Global Stimulus for Resilience in Recovery

Newsletter from Rocky Mountain Institute on 20 May 2020:

“The world is going through an enormous crisis impacting us all, first and foremost those who have fallen ill and their loved ones. Together, though, we will rise to the challenges before us.

Our path forward requires a collaborative, global response, much like that needed to address the looming climate crisis. Stimulus and recovery investments will be vital to our collective rebuilding from the pandemic-caused economic crisis. And if these investments are strategically targeted, they can help us address these two crises while advancing us toward a cleaner, healthier, more just, and more resilient future for the one planet we all share.

Today RMI released the first in a series of reports presenting insights into how countries around the globe can build back better from this crisis. The report, Global Stimulus Principles: The Economy We Build Should Not Be the Same Economy We Decarbonize, articulates four core principles of strategic stimulus and recovery for global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn that can simultaneously benefit the economy, the environment, and our communities.
                      
These principles provide an important framework for stimulus and recovery actions because: Public spending will drive recovery and public funds must be used wisely. Investments should generate multiple benefits. Global recovery requires a collaborative, global response. In the coming weeks, RMI will release additional insights presenting recommendations for green stimulus and recovery investments and actions specific to the United States, China, India, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean that can help optimize efforts to rebuild in these countries and regions.

I also invite you to join me and my colleagues Carla Frisch and Uday Varadarajan on Thursday, May 28, at 11:00am MT (3:00am in Victoria and NSW, Australia) for a virtual discussion, “Global Stimulus and Recovery: A Path to Global Resilience,” of this new report and RMI’s work to help the world build back better and advance toward a low-carbon future. We hope you can join us for this important and timely discussion. 

Sincerely,
Jules Kortenhorst
CEO, Rocky Mountain Institute

ABOUT RMI
Rocky Mountain Institute transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future.

Download the paper
 

The COVID-19 stimulus debate is a climate story

The Climate Beat newsletter on 13 May 2020

“Pick any world-shaking event from 20th century history—none has produced a bigger decrease in [heat trapping] emissions” than this year’s coronavirus, wrote Laura Millan Lombrana and Haley Warren in a May 7 article for Bloomberg Green. Normally, plummeting emissions would be good climate news. But in this case, emissions fell because of a pandemic that has killed a reported 280,000 people (and counting) and forced economies around the world into lockdown, driving unemployment to heights not seen since the Great Depression.

In the coming weeks and months, countries will debate how to restore some semblance of normal economic life. The question is whether they will do it without endangering the planet in the process. Journalists will be tracking what figures to be a titanic struggle pitting science against politics and champions of climate-smart economics against defenders of the status quo. And the outcome will be shaped in part by whether news outlets can give this story the prominence, clarity, and urgency it demands.

Because of the pandemic shutdown, annual carbon dioxide emissions will fall by about 8 percent in 2020, projects the International Energy Agency. As it happens, 8 percent is roughly how much emissions must fall each year during the next decade to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement. If temperature rise instead reaches 2 degrees C, the resulting additional heat waves, droughts, fires, storms and other climate impacts will cause massive loss of life. “Hundreds of millions—or even billions—of people will run short of food,” science writer Mark Lynas explains in his new book, Our Final Warning. Meanwhile, Lynas writes, the climate system’s feedback mechanisms—such as faster melting of permafrost and polar ice—will make further temperature rise and harsher impacts inevitable.

Of course, it’s neither desirable nor feasible to keep economies on permanent lockdown in the name of climate stability. Which may explain why variations of a Green New Deal, an idea first pressed by climate activists, are garnering support from more and more pillars of the establishment. The European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the mayors of 33 of the world’s biggest cities, the leaders of Europe’s two biggest economies, Germany and France, a coalition of investors who manage more than $32 trillion worth of assets—these are just some of the voices arguing that the government stimulus programs being devised to revive pandemic-stricken economies must be green.

COVID-19 recovery programs “should not be a return to ‘business as usual’—because that is a world on track for more than 3 degrees C of overheating,” warned a statement by the mayors of New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, São Paulo, Seoul, and 27 other cities with a combined population of 750 million people. Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, has argued that instead of ploughing trillions of dollars into fossil fuel energy sources and infrastructure, countries “should try to leapfrog ahead” by investing in solar and wind power and emulating the UK government’s plan to phase out gasoline and diesel engine cars by 2035.

A study led by Nicholas Stern, former chief economist at The World Bank, and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University found that green stimulus programs outperform their opposites. The economists’ examination of more than 700 stimulus programs launched after the 2008 global financial crisis found that investing in energy efficiency—for example, by retrofitting buildings—and renewable energy yielded more jobs and higher monetary returns than traditional stimulus programs.

Such approaches are bound to encounter fierce resistance, however. In the US, the Trump administration and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill have contempt for anything resembling a Green New Deal; instead, they are aiding the fossil fuel industry and other heavy polluters through financial subsidies and regulatory rollbacks. China, the world’s other climate superpower, appears to have stalled once-promising efforts toward a green transition, instead prioritizing immediate factory re-openings. In Europe, industrial interests are pressuring governments to save jobs and prevent bankruptcies by easing environmental policies.

“Every day, letters from powerful industrial organizations, from cement to plastic to the car industry, arrive in the Commission saying that we need relief on standards for emissions, on regulations,” Stefan Lehne, a former Commission official, told The New York Times.

As events unfold, the political and electoral dimensions of this story will require careful attention, as will the costs and benefits of the various policies for ordinary people. The best reporting will demonstrate command of the science, including the imperative of keeping global warming “well below” 2 C, per the Paris Agreement. And there will be surprises. Who would have expected at a time of rising coronavirus death tolls that 71 percent of adults think that climate change is as serious a crisis as COVID-19 is in the long term? That’s according to an Ipsos poll of 28,000 people in 14 countries that also found that 65 percent of the public wants governments to “prioritize climate change in the economic recovery after COVID-19.” People are hungry for climate progress. They need journalism that equips them to follow the action—and make their own voices heard—before it’s too late.

Now, here’s your weekly sampling of the latest in climate news, from across the Covering Climate Now collaboration:

• The suddenly blue skies and clear water yielded by the coronavirus economic shutdown won’t last if the world economy returns to business as normal, say health, economic, and policy experts calling for a green recovery, The Christian Science Monitor reports. Climate activists, meanwhile, hope we learn the right lessons from the pandemic—that “in times of crisis, with a scientific consensus on what is necessary and what will work, [political] leaders can act decisively.”

• With the coronavirus occupying national attention, the Trump administration continues to roll back environmental protections, including regulations on fuel efficiency, air soot pollution, public lands, offshore fishing, and more, The Guardian reports. The cuts go against science—experts say more air soot pollution will directly contribute to deaths in affected areas—and further than even industry had requested. “What Trump’s done is create a blitzkrieg against the environment,” one expert says, “trying to dismantle not just Obama’s environmental achievements but turn back the clock to a pre-Richard Nixon day.”

• Also from The Guardian: America’s meat supply may be under threat, as some processing facilities are forced to close due to coronavirus outbreaks. The fragility of the food supply, some say, is thanks to decades of company policies that favored profit and efficiency above all else. But sustainable farms, which prioritize the environment and animal welfare, have seen a jump in business, perhaps making the case for a national transition to sustainable models.

• Young Republicans, disappointed by the climate denialism of party leaders, in April unveiled a conservative answer to the Green New Deal. Critics say the plan is too modest to be effective, InsideClimate News explains, but the young conservatives argue that their plan at least accepts climate change as an urgent problem and will stimulate healthy debate. “When one side decides it doesn’t want to discuss the truth of the problem at all, it feeds into the other side getting a monopoly on the discussion,” a University of Louisville student says. “That is really damaging.”

• Parts of the Amazon and other tropical forests are now emitting more CO2 than they are absorbing, new research shows, due to rampant deforestation. “We have hit a tipping point,” an atmospheric chemist in Brazil tells Yale Environment 360. It is perhaps the first time in thousands of years that the forest has acted as a source of greenhouse gases, an ominous development that will make the Paris Agreement goals that much harder to reach.

• At the same time, Reuters reports that Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has placed the country’s military in charge of fighting deforestation over strong objections from the former head of Brazil’s environmental protection agency, who called the move “unacceptable.”

The Climate Beat is a weekly newsletter from Covering Climate Now, offering the latest commentary and analysis on climate journalism, as well as great examples of climate coverage.

Covering Climate Now, co-founded by Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, is a global journalism initiative committed to bringing more and better coverage to the defining story of our time.


How to generate a larger collective impact

How will B Corps respond to COVID-19? Five predictions from their climate change solutions

“It takes effort and purpose to go looking in on someone else’s world, and so many of us before the pandemic only paid attention to what was affecting our own. We were lacking empathy and the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference — that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”
~ Ellonda L. Green, Ed.D., B Lab’s Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

“Operating for the good of multiple stakeholders helps Certified B Corporations amplify their benefit, but it also provides a structure to turn to during changing times and economic challenges. As the coronavirus pandemic creates uncertainty now and for the future, B Corps are encountering the unexpected and adapting to find a new equilibrium amid shared fear and hope for ourselves and our planet.

By learning from how B Corps have collaborated on solutions to protect our planet and build a better world, the business world can find examples of how to generate a larger collective impact that benefits all while adapting amid a pandemic. During the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, businesses can contribute to systemic economic change through regenerative, equitable practices that benefit all people and create a more resilient future.

B The Change compiled five ways that B Corps have met the climate crisis and how these practices can serve as a model during the current crisis and as we adapt to new realities in the future.”

→ bcorporation.net:
Collective Action for the Greater Good Can Build a Better World

→ The New Yorker – 14 May 2020:
One Crisis Doesn’t Stop Because Another Starts
By Bill McKibben

Free and near-free lunches

“We must look to take advantage of some of the free lunches, or near-free lunches, that should be a part of a serious global bid to reduce carbon emissions. If, for example, a significant portion of drivers switch their car insurance to pay-by-the-mile policies, they will have a powerful disincentive to drive. With annual car insurance costs averaging close to $1,000, this would work out to a net cost of 10 cents a mile for a driver who travels 10,000 miles a year. In practical terms, that works out to the same disincentive to drive that would be achieved under a $2.50-a-gallon gas tax imposed on drivers with cars that get 25 miles to the gallon.

Congestion pricing is another near-free lunch. This plan was introduced by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone two decades ago. The idea is to charge a high fee for private cars driving into a city center during the workday. This both reduces the huge amount of greenhouse gases emitted by cars stuck in traffic and encourages people to take alternative modes of transportation.”

“The ongoing fallout from the coronavirus crisis should open many opportunities for progressive change. That was also true at the time of the housing bubble’s collapse. Let’s hope we do better this time.”

→ The New Republic – 14 May 2020:
Building an Economy That Works Again
“A practical blueprint for reform in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown”

Wuppertal: Discussion papers and discussion impulses

In the Wuppertal Institut May 2020 Newsletter, Christin Hasken and Anna Riesenweber pointed to the discussion paper “Consequences of the Corona pandemic and climate protection” highlights the need to reflect how stimulus packages which can be expected to be launched from national and European side to help the economy have to be shaped and argues that they should follow a green recovery strategy. In the same direction goes an article by Professor Manfred Fischedick, Scientific Managing Director at the Wuppertal Institute, that shows 3 ways to strengthen the cleantech dynamics in the post-COVID-19 era. The Wuppertal Institute’s discussion paper “The ‘European Green Deal’ after the Corona Pandemic” provides a set of concrete requirements for the economic stimulus packages. That those instruments are a good opportunity to overcome structural path dependencies and have the potential to accelerate necessary transformation processes outlines Manfred Fischedick in his science blog article “Use the economic stimulus package to build resilient, climate-friendly economic structures.”


Business as usual versus sustainability

By Gareth Kane, Director, Terra Infirma Ltd

One of the interesting insights of the coronavirus crisis is how quickly we can change when we need to. Suddenly a huge chunk of the population is au fait with teleworking and cities around the world are installing pop-up cycle lanes overnight. So why can’t we make such radical changes in response to the climate change challenge?

“People just don’t care!” is often the cry of environmentalists frustrated with the slow rate of change in the face of climate change, plastic pollution or biodiversity loss. But the reasons why behaviour change is so slow is much more complex than that.

I have adopted the elephant model of change which uses the analogy of a rider guiding an elephant along a path. The rider is our conscious brain – the part that analyses data and works on evidence. The elephant is our emotional selves – the messy soup of hopes, fears, altruism and selfishness that really makes decisions. The path is the environment we operate in – the physical environment, the social environment and the economic environment. I’ll take each of these in turn.

1. The rider: information
Close to where I live there is a wonderful cycle path along an old railway line which links a busy suburban shopping street to the renowned C2C long distance cycle route. But it’s hidden behind a bingo hall and there’s no signage to tell a passing cyclist that it actually exists – never mind where it goes. No wonder it is usually empty.

As well as providing information about greener options, decision makers must be provided with all the relevant information, not just that which they normally receive. In one of my clients, we found that the cost of carbon regulation wasn’t factored into investment appraisal as it was allocated to a different budget than energy costs. Including this information made more sustainable options much more likely to be chosen.

2. The elephant: our emotional selves
One of the main reasons why we follow business-as-usual is we have been programmed through millennia of evolution to fear the new. If something has always been done a certain way then the easy option is to keep doing it, often subconsciously.

I’ve only found three sure-fire ways of getting people out of that comfort zone:
a. their boss telling them to change,
b. translating Sustainability into a form that is relevant to them (I call this Green Jujitsu), and
c. getting that person to develop their own Sustainability solutions.

On the latter, when we have an innovative idea, we tend to exaggerate the benefits and play down the risks, bringing that change into our comfort zone. This is why I spend a lot of time co-creating solutions with decision-makers in my clients – if they own the solution, it is far more likely to happen.

3. The path: our operating environment
One of the reasons for business as usual is that our systems have evolved over hundreds of years along a linear (take, make, waste), high carbon model. In order to get people to follow a low carbon, circular economy behaviour we first have to provide those options AND make them more attractive (convenient, intuitive, cheap) than business as usual. Whether we are looking at sustainable transport, supply chains or energy, very often the required infrastructure simply isn’t available. 

‘Shaping the path’ within the organisation is relatively straightforward (eg providing teleconferencing technology), but the external environment is much more of a challenge to change. One powerful tactic is to increase demand for the required elements eg by making joint purchasing agreements for renewable energy, electric vehicles or recycled raw materials. This sends a strong signal to the supply chain to start changing.

The recipe for success
So, to get people to let go of the business-as-usual comfort blanket and embrace Sustainable behaviour, you have to provide them with the right information, make them feel comfortable with the change, and ensure their immediate environment is conducive to the new behaviour.
~ Gareth Kane, Director, Terra Infirma Ltd


→ The Global Mail:
Milan’s mayor says ‘people are ready’ for green change in postpandemic Italy

→ Fast Company:
How cities are reshaping streets to prepare for life after lockdown

→ The Guardian:
City leaders aim to shape green recovery from coronavirus crisis

→ Climate 2020:
Raising climate ambition in the time of COVID-19

→ The CityFix, WRI:
After the Crisis: How COVID-19 Can Drive Transformational Change in Cities

→ Yale – 14 May 2020:
To Get COVID-19 Relief, Companies in Canada Will Have to Disclose Climate Impacts

→ Bloomberg Green:
London’s Mayor Turns to Cycling to Solve Transit’s Coronavirus Problem

→ Reuters – 14 May 2020:
Residents in the French capital are turning to bikes reduce their infection risk while getting around
“Coronavirus is changing the world in unprecedented ways.”

Twitter:
#GreenRecovery  | #BuildBackBetter | #StoryChange

Facebook:
#GreenRecovery  | #BuildBackBetter | #StoryChange

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