Global Spotlight Report #27: The Challenge of Including Climate Considerations In Coronavirus Economic Recovery Programs

Introduction

Over the course of the first four months of 2020, almost every country has experienced the onslaught of the Coronavirus, COVID-19. As of May 14th there have been 4.37 million recorded cases of COVID-19 and 298,000 deaths world-wide. The economic devastation being wrought by COVID-19 is equally devastating. Record numbers of people have lost their jobs; there is expected to be a 3% loss in global GDP this year; major industries and small businesses in almost every sector have been hurt; and an estimated half a billion people have been pushed into poverty.

Ironically, the climate has benefitted as a result of COVID-19. Air pollution in major cities has decreased, the demand for and use of fossil fuel, energy use has declined, and there has been a small decrease in overall levels of carbon emissions. However, few expect these benefits to last once economies regain their footing, which is what happened after the global economic recession of 2008.

The fact that many economic systems and industries have been upended presents the world with an opportunity to reset. We are faced with an enormous economic and political restructuring task as we recover from COVID-19. The question is: will our rebuild succeed in putting the planet on the path to sustainable development for all or will we return to a self-destructive pattern of business as usual?

Governments have begun to deal with the pandemic by formulating economic stimulus and recovery programs designed to put money in people’s pockets, help support failing industries, and strengthen the ability of public health systems to fight the disease. For Climate Scorecard’s Global Report #27, we asked our Country Managers to assess the degree to which climate considerations are being taken into account as these policies and programs unfold. The answer for the most part is not yet.

For example, in Australia the government will likely leverage support for its fossil fuel companies as a presumed economic kick-starter. Canada’s initial stimulus response to coronavirus does not take into account climate considerations. Germany and Indonesia’s responses also leave out climate issues. Japan’s planned relief package lacks any mention of energy transition; and the United States also has not included climate change measures in its four coronavirus economic recovery (CARES) packages. 

There are however some notable exceptions to this trend. China’s climate mitigation and environmental protection policies continue unabated despite COVID-19; and India has just released an economic recovery package that could put the country firmly on a sustainable development path.

Details on the status of efforts to include climate considerations in the economic recovery programs 20 leading greenhouse gas emitting countries are provided below.


Country Reports

Fossil Fuels Likely to be Leveraged as an Economic Kick-Starter in Australia

At the time of writing, Australia is in a hopeful position. Strong leadership from state governments has squashed the pandemic curve and prevented significant damage to Australia’s medical system. While lifting restrictions on people’s movement is months away, the nature of Australia’s post-pandemic recovery is beginning to be discussed in earnest. Surprisingly, Australia’s conservative government…

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Brazil’s Unpreparedness for Coronavirus Outbreak Paints a Grim Picture of How it Will React to Climate Change

Like most countries in recent months, Brazil has been severely hit by the recent coronavirus outbreak. In some regions, the governments’ rapid decision-taking and strong health institutions provide hope that nations can quickly overcome global crises and are ready to sacrifice short term economic profit for the health of the planet. However, in Brazil the…

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Canada’s Response to Coronavirus Does Not Take Into Account Climate Considerations

(1) Canada’s health and economic recovery policies for addressing COVID-19    In the span of a month, Canada, similar to many other countries, has had devastating economic impacts as it tackles COVID-19. Businesses are closed and workers must remain at home, many being unpaid or unsure their jobs will continue. On April 9, Prime Minister Trudeau…

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CO2 Emissions in France Drop Following Lockdown – Climate Aspects Not Considered in Pandemic Policies

France has been under lockdown because of COVID-19 since mid-March. As of 19 April, the lockdown has been extended twice and is in force until 11 May. Under the lockdown, people are only allowed to leave home for work (if remote work is not possible), for grocery shopping, seeking medical care, and for a few…

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Climate Mitigation and Environmental Protection Policies Continue Unabated in China Despite COVID-19 / 新冠疫情下,应对气候变化和环境保护政策不停摆

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim victims across the globe, China is gradually reducing the drastic measures that shut down much of the economy and stranded millions of workers at home, unable to get back to their workplace after the Chinese New Year. While crucial production remained operating on reduced holiday schedules, other economic…

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COVID-19 Calls Into Question the Implementation of the EU Clean Energy for All Package

In her speech to the European Parliament on 26 March 2020, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen announced a series of packages to support the healthcare systems of EU countries. EUR 6 billion euro in total has been dedicated to financing the Emergency Support Instrument and RescEU, from which EUR 3…

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Germany’s Initial COVID-19 Stimulus Package Leaves Out Climate Issues

Just as it has in 200 other countries, the coronavirus has led to an essential halt to everyday life in Germany. Education facilities moved online, businesses closed, and people are experiencing different ways of doing things. Germany also has demonstrated its capability to implement strong new measures and policies in response to the pandemic. For…

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Can COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plans Help Put India on the Path to Low Carbon Sustainable Development?

The first case of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic in India was reported on 30 January 2020, originating from China. As of 30 April 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has confirmed a total of 33,050 cases, 8,325 recoveries (including 1 migration), and 1074 deaths in the country. Experts suggest the number of infections could be much higher as…

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Indonesia Ignores Climate Considerations in Its Initial COVID-19 Economic Recovery Policies

Indonesia declared a state of public health emergency on March 2, 2020. The president created Government Regulation No. 21/2020 on large-scale social distancing as an implementation regulation of the 2018 Health Quarantine Law to restrict economic and social activity on March 31st. The regulation includes home, hospital, and regional quarantining. Regional quarantine involves border restrictions…

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EU and Government Funding Are Being Used as Economic Stimulus Absent Any Mention of Climate

A Country Hard Hit by the Virus Italy is, at the time of writing (4/26/2020), the third most affected country in the world from the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It has 195,351 cases at present, of which 26,384 have died. Only Spain and the United States have more cases than Italy in the world. In Italy, more…

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Japan’s Planned Relief Packages Lack Any Mention of Energy Transition

The COVID-19 pandemic has become the defining global health crisis of our time, with deep social and economic implications in the years to come. The Bank of Japan has warned that it could plunge the country into deep economic stagnation. According to a survey carried out by Teikoku Databank (TDB), more than 10,000 Japanese businesses…

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Economic Recovery Plans in Mexico Have Mixed Signals for Climate Change Efforts

As of April 2020, when this article was written, Mexico has implemented several economic measures that have been considered by many in the private sector as insufficient. According to the Finance Secretary, it is estimated that the country will face a drop of 3.9% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during 2020. Initially, those sectors…

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Russia’s Economic Growth Model Based on Oil is No Longer Sustainable

By the end of March 2020, there were no readily available statistics on Russia’s emissions, though there were some estimates provided by the Moscow city administration. Due to many workers working remotely from home, there was an 11% decrease in private vehicles on the roads of the Russian capital during morning rush hour. However, in…

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Recommendations for Improving the Climate Aspects of Saudi Coronavirus Economic Recovery Policies and Programs

The Saudi Arabia government announced on March 20th a $32 billion economic stimulus package to help the economy badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic crisis and low oil prices. Most of the stimulus funds will bail out conventional energy systems and assist large businesses ($18.7 billion) as well as small and medium-sized businesses ($13.3 billion)…

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South Africa Should Take a Sustainable Development Approach to Economic Recovery from COVID-19

South Africa is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 given its levels of poverty, unemployment, inequality, and vulnerable employment, as well as the prevalence of HIV and tuberculosis. An R500 billion economic and social support package was announced by the President as the government’s response to stimulate economic recovery hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bulk of…

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South Korea Beating COVID-19 & Discussing a “Green New Deal”

The South Korean government provides COVID-19 emergency disaster relief funds to all of its citizens. It is an unprecedented amount of money that any Korean citizen can receive. The amount of funding depends on the number of household members; a household of one person can get roughly 330 U.S. dollars a month, a family of…

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Time Will Tell When and How Spain Moves Forward in Terms of The Economy and Climate Change Efforts

*Note: Article written April 18, 2020; as this is an evolving situation, data and situations may have changed by the publication of this article. Spain has been one of the countries hardest hit by the COVID–19 pandemic worldwide. As of mid-April, Spain had contributed nearly 200,000 cases of the 2 million across the globe, accounting…

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Addressing Economic, Environmental, & Climate Change Related Issues in Thailand a Huge Challenge During COVID-19

At present, Thailand is facing major economic and environment-related challenges with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, including severe droughts, and widespread forest fires. The COVID-19 pandemic droughts and forest fires have been described as “Thailand’s triple disaster.” In this regard, it has been mentioned: “The combination of the global coronavirus pandemic, droughts, and choking fires…

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COVID-19 Economic Recovery Policies in Turkey Should Include Supporting Self-Sustaining Agricultural Production

Turkey’s current or planned health and economic recovery policies for addressing COVID-19 are not taking into account issues related to climate change mitigation and/or adaptation.  However, there is a very important climate-related issue that Turkey should consider as part of its COVID-19 economic recovery program: the return to self-sustaining agricultural production.  Doing so would completely…

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Suggestions for Making Coronavirus Economic Recovery Climate Wise in the UK

Due to the UK lockdown that began on March 23rd, businesses, schools, and all non-essential workplaces have been closed down and people began working from home. Where working from home is not possible, many companies have opted to furlough their employees, meaning employees are temporarily laid off and instead receive 80% of their income from…

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Ukraine Government COVID-19 Recovery Efforts Do Not Sufficiently Include Measures to Mitigate Climate Change

On March 12, the COVID-19 quarantine was declared in Ukraine. At that time, the government did not yet understand how it would proceed, what policies it would enact, and how long it would last. There was only one goal- to slow down the spread of COVID-19. At this stage, the number of affected people changes…

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US Yet to Significantly Include Climate Change Measures In Its Coronavirus Economic Recovery Programs

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was recorded on January 21, 2020; by May 1 over 1,000,000 cases had been reported. To slow the spread of the virus, states across the country issued stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, instituted social distancing measures, and closed non-essential businesses. President Trump declared a national emergency on…

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