Greening Covid-19 Recovery

Dr. Ranjan Roy

19 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Greening Covid-19 Recovery

Dr. Ranjan Roy

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented health, economic and social crises, threatening the past achievements. It has been creating risk of food security, social protection, and women empowerment and collectively, the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Likewise, the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic has been exacerbating poverty, hunger, inequality and vulnerability.

To address the impacts of Covid-19 on economy, the government has taken four recovery programmes: increasing government’s spending, implementing financial assistance package, enhancing social protection scheme, and increasing money supply. These spending and investment programmes create an opportunity for greening the recovery and/or working toward a green, resilient, and inclusive development.

Green recovery places emphasis on a host of policies and solutions that benefit people and the planet for a long-time. Green recovery is built on a range of direct investments, policy reform, and capacity building, or a combination of these that ensure rapture to recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and bring wide-ranging benefits for the climate, nature, commu¬nities, economies and workers.

Simply, green recovery promotes activities that lead to lower emissions, creating of jobs and improved wellbeing; it also demotes activities that lock in high emissions. A key tenet of green recovery is to promote an inclusive green economy, which is fundamentally low-carbon, resilient, resource-efficient and socially inclusive. Green recovery paves the way for the sustainability, resilience and climate neutrality.

A chorus of voices have been raised for the necessity of greening the recovery. Pope Francis, for instance, says that Covid-19 is one of "nature's responses" to humans and he underscores the inevitability of nature in development. António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, also proposes Covid-19 recovery measures that likely accelerate a green transition. He states that the SDGs and Paris Agreement are the blueprint for a better recovery.

Greening the recovery is critical in the context of prevailing existential climate-related threats, increasing poverty, and burgeoning inequality. Studies compile the key arguments in support of a green recovery. A substantial number of studies show green recovery boosts job creation, leads to stronger economic growth, and ensures a better return on investment. Green recovery evidently supports better health, helps tackle biodiversity loss, builds climate resilience, and fosters green leapfrogging.

Green recovery strengthens social justice, just transition and peace. It reduces poverty, inequalities including gender and racial discrimination. This recovery improves living conditions, enhances green employment, and expands decent working conditions. Green recovery increase resilience to disasters, i.e., resilient to flood and drought, through nature-centric developments. Moreover, it reduces pollution and restores ecosystem services.  

While institutions and governments underline the benefits of green recovery, many of them have limited capacity, knowledge and resources to support an effective and implementable green recovery. ‘One size does not fit all’ is fully applicable to green recovery. Thus, green recovery requires country-specific means and measures to implement it. Aficionados opine that the recovery needs an assessment of the social and economic impacts of Covid-19 at the country and regional levels. Institutions like ILO, UNDP, and FAO have developed tools for conducting Covid-19-related socio-economic assessments.

What makes a recovery green? Green recovery essentially excludes certain activities and outcomes, for example, investments in fossil fuels or polluting activities. A ‘do no harm’ principles is followed in the Europe¬an Union for selecting measures for a green recovery. Many organisations have determined what activities are green or contribute to a sustainable transition through direct investments, policy reform and capacity building.

GIZ, a German development agency, states a green recovery might be considered a “condensed, concentrated, accelerated manifestation of a green economy,” which promotes three broad purposes: sustaining and advancing economic, environmental and social well-being, the World Resource Institute (WRI) states.

A range of tools and political frameworks can be found for realising a green economy. For instance, UNEP’s ‘Global Green Deal’ focuses on achieving environmental sustainability, social equity and a low carbon economy and investments. This deal also signifies an enabling policy and legal framework and behavioural change for sustainable production and consumption.

The European Green Deal is a useful growth strategy for “a fair and pros¬perous society.” To this end, attaining a resource-efficient and competitive economy has to be ensured. Key sectors for green transformation include construction, biodiversity and food.

Several studies have developed a plethora of tools and approaches to promote a green recovery. First, governments need alignments and reforms of national planning. At the macro level, governments need to develop National Green Growth Strategies and Sustainable Production and Consumption instruments. Implementing existing tools, including the National Sustainable Development Strategy 2010-21 would be a good start.

It is significant to think new metrics to understand economic wellbeing and progress. Governments must spend for green infrastructure projects. They should declare a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure. Properly implementing the ‘Renewable Energy Policy of Bangladesh’ can be a major task towards a green recovery.

Several ministries have significant roles for developing and implementing economic, monetary and fiscal tools. Particularly, the financial and planning ministries have specific roles to play, such as, removing fossil fuel subsidies, increasing taxes for polluting industries, expanding green industries and markets, introducing cost-reflective energy tariffs, and fostering green procurements.

The central bank has critical roles in leveraging innovative finance for realising green economy, for example, launching green bonds and gilts, adding green and social conditionality on lending, including climate change in projects and programmes, etc. Bangladesh bank must ensure asset purchase programmes excluding carbon intensive assets and institutionalise test all portfolios against climate risks. Moreover, this bank should create fiscal space for transformation of carbon-intensive sectors, including shipping industry, agriculture and energy sectors. Other useful strategies are cap lending for fossil fuels, end lending to companies, factories and industries without just transition strategies.

National investment portfolios and development banks should update their mandate for supporting green recovery. They might provide financial incentives, preferential loans, and grants for green recovery programmes. They must invest in sustainable, green, climate-resilient and resource-efficient projects.

ADB has identified a wide range of green (i.e., low-carbon and resilience-building) recovery interventions. Key interventions include health projects promoting disaster preparedness planning, construction of health facilities to disaster and climate resilience standards, developing post-disaster disease surveillance systems, and skills development. Other interventions are energy-efficient residences, low-cost housing, rural green infrastructure projects (e.g., off-grid rural electrification), clean cooking programmes, and climate-friendly agriculture value chains development.

Many projects and programmes of the government support the green recovery in principle. Covid-19 recovery has heralded a pathway to a green recovery. Better organised planning, institutional measures and political will are indispensable to achieve a sustainable, inclusive and resilient transformation towards a green recovery.

In sum, greening the Covid-19 recovery provides a one-off chance for a quantum leap to accomplish the SDGs and Paris Agreement.


The writer is a Professor, Department of Agricultural Extension and Information System, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural

University, Dhaka.