COVID and Climate Change: Five Ways To Rebuild A More Resilient Economy
by Khyati Rathore
COVID-19 has laid bare the many ways many of the world’s leaders were ill-prepared to respond to a global crisis. But as governments start to repair our battered economies, we have a chance to rebuild better together and incorporate resilience throughout our economy in a way that prepares us for another looming global crisis – climate change.
Like COVID, the climate crisis knows no geopolitical or socioeconomic boundaries. And unlike with COVID, world leaders must work together in a consolidated effort to design and implement a coherent and coordinated response. The decisions and investments we make today to recover from this crisis, if done right, can create the systemic change we need to address climate issues at the speed and scale required.
On behalf of 1.8 billion young people who will have to live with the consequences of your choices for decades to come, I am asking the decision-makers to not just speak about “rebuilding better,” but to put actual finances behind it.
Here are five ways that I recommend:
- First and foremost, ensure that no one is left behind when we emerge out of this crisis. Through the right financial and resource allocations, we need to enable capacity building, technology transfer, and systems strengthening to build resilience in developing countries. At the same time, we need to implement stringent climate mitigation solutions in developed countries with higher GHG footprints. Carbon markets will be a crucial tool: international cooperation through markets lowers the cost of climate action. And this savings can make much more climate ambition possible.
- Second, create structural shifts in our global financial system. We have an opportunity to place climate risks and opportunities at the heart of all investment strategies. Putting a price on carbon will allow us to fast track progress towards a cleaner future. And moving forward, our investments should lead towards a 100% clean economy. All public and private investments should go through a green screening to ensure alignment with the 1.5-degree Celsius target.
- Third, the financial flows should be directed to enhance our environment through tropical forest protection, carbon removal, coastal restoration, and emission reduction mechanisms. We urge the private sector to lead innovation and implementation of such solutions, and the policymakers to create the right incentives and accountability mechanisms to accelerate this global transition.
- Fourth, the huge spending undertaken by governments to revive the economy and to bailout businesses from the impacts of COVID-19 should be directed to strengthen the clean energy sector and green businesses. These are the industries that will give us the most for our investment: strong, stable jobs that help support a stable climate and clean air. Governments should refrain from bailing out polluters and carbon-intensive industries that will worsen the climate crisis. Additionally, any support given must include stronger environmental restrictions.
- Lastly, stimulus funding used for infrastructure projects, should take the climate crisis into account and strive to mitigate the negative impacts on nature. Furthermore, the capital projects and financial assistance strategies should prioritize the growth of small businesses and the most vulnerable communities.
By harnessing these five key actions in directing financial flows, we can recover from the COVID-19 crisis to a future that avoids the worst impact of the climate crisis – the only future where young people can thrive.
The current crisis has exposed our society’s weaknesses – the inequalities, the lack of preparedness for a major global crisis, the lack of multilateral coordination. It is up to us to acknowledge that, learn from it and build a robust path forward towards a just and sustainable future. And we need to ensure that our response to the COVID crisis does not make the climate crisis worse.
In the words of UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, “The only answer is brave, visionary and collaborative leadership.” I and my fellow youth advocates expect nothing less from our leaders and representatives.
About the Author
Khyati Rathore is the Special Projects Manager with Defend Our Future (DOF) and is leading the initiative to engage with young professionals and students to drive climate action by the private sector. She believes, in this era of unprecedented urbanization and globalization, a collaborative approach is required across all sectors and scales to strategically respond to the unique socio-economic and environmental challenges of climate change. Through her work, she aims to support systemic change through policy advocacy and strengthen grassroots climate action led by the youth. Prior to joining the DOF team, Khyati completed the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps fellowship with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, and since has been engaged with the advocacy initiatives undertaken by EDF. In the past, she has worked as an architect and planner in India, Indonesia and the United States to promote sustainability practices. She is also an active youth advocate for climate change at several international platforms through her engagement with the United Nations (UN) agencies.