Coronavirus pandemic stimulus should focus on tackling climate change

A low emission coronavirus recovery plan and robust green financing for developing countries could help in achieving climate goals, global leaders said during a climate summit.

"As we spend trillions to recover from COVID-19, we must deliver new jobs and businesses through a clean, green and just transition," said Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general.

Taxpayer money should not be invested for bailing out outdated, polluting and carbon-intensive industries, he urged the governments during the concluding session of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue on Tuesday.

Environment ministers from 30 countries virtually attended the two-day dialogue on April 27 and 28, focusing on reducing post-pandemic carbon-intensive industrial activities. Many countries have doled out massive fiscal packages to sectors like aviation and automobile, without any condition to cap carbon emissions.

According to climate activists, such fiscal stimulus packages would certainly spike the emission level, hampering global efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. They also fear that the incentives might be used to promote fossil fuel at a time when cleaner technologies need a boost. 

Echoing the sentiments of climate activists, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said countries should have a climate action plan before starting to invest in coronavirus reconstruction plans.

"It's crucial that recovery programs always keep an eye on the climate. We must not ignore climate, but invest in climate technologies," she said. Merkel also reiterated the country's commitment to cutting emissions by 50-55 percent by 2030, a target still under discussion by the European Union.

Climate finance

The UN chief also urged the rich nations to start the process of providing 100 billion U.S. dollars a year for mitigation and adaption measures.

The fund was promised to countries that have minimal carbon footprint but are facing the worst impact of climate change. Developed countries responsible for climate harming emissions promised the funds to help these countries deal with the effects of rising sea levels and temperatures.

Merkel also demanded that developed countries should increase, not decrease their share in the green funds to help developing countries tackle the impact of rising temperatures.

Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), also supported a climate-friendly coronavirus recovery plan. "We are about to deploy a massive fiscal stimulus which can help us address both crises [coronavirus and climate change] at the same time."

"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," she added.

(Cover: Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General displayed on a screen at the Environment Ministry as he delivers his speech at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, in Berlin, Germany, April 28, 2020. /AP)