carbon emissions uk

Covid-19 stimulus packages should focus on ‘global low-carbon transformation’

Image credit: reuters

Global stimulus packages designed to get economies back on their feet after the shock delivered by the Covid-19 pandemic should in part be focused on measures to combat climate change, a group of researchers have said.

More than $12tr (£9.3tr) has been pledged worldwide in such packages so far. This is around three times more than the spending allocated following the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and represents around 15 per cent of global GDP.

The research team from Imperial College London (ICL), Climate Analytics in Berlin and the Electric Power Research Institute in the United States calculated that if just one-tenth of the money promised for recovery was invested each year in plans designed to negate climate change, the world could be put on track to meet Paris Agreement goals to limit the average global temperature rise to below 2°C above the pre-industrial era.

The research suggests that direct stimulus and investments, as well as supporting policies such as incentives and rebates, should be applied to achieve both economic recovery and accelerate the deployment of low-carbon energy supply and energy efficiency measures.

“Our findings show that investing in solutions to limit warming to 1.5°C is well within budget,” said senior author Dr Joeri Rogelj, who works at ICL. “In fact, the increase in low-carbon energy investments required over the next five years to move the world on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets is about eight times smaller than the total current Covid-19 stimulus.”

First author Marina Andrijevic, from Climate Analytics and Humboldt University, said: “This is not about diverting money from Covid-19 stimulus or other low-carbon investments in industry, research and development, but providing for the win-win solution of a boosted economy that simultaneously helps our efforts to stall climate change.”

Few countries have stated in full detail what they will use their recovery packages for, but immediate priorities will likely be to support healthcare systems, preserve livelihoods and stabilise employment. Beyond these, governments will be looking for investments that can foster economic recovery over the longer term.

Several reports, including a survey of over 230 experts worldwide, have shown how a climate-positive recovery can support this goal by providing both short and long-term benefits, including job creation and lowering the investment risk of green technologies.

“Climate-positive recovery packages provide many benefits governments are looking for to get out of this crisis: they can boost employment and stimulate innovation, thus accelerating the development of technologies required for a global low-carbon transformation,” Dr Rogelj added.

The team’s analysis shows that a climate-positive recovery also needs a strong, near-term focus on actively avoiding a polluting recovery, such as stimulus packages that bail out fossil fuels.

The analysis shows that this will be easier for some countries than others. The US and the European Union have pledged the most in post-pandemic recovery and also need to invest the least proportionally in low-carbon energy to be on track to reach the Paris Agreement goals.

Meanwhile, emerging economies like India have put forward less funding for pandemic recovery, but require proportionally more investments to provide their populations with reliable, clean and affordable energy.

Co-author Dr David McCollum, from the Electric Power Research Institute, said: “The differing situations between developed and emerging economies in these times of crisis remind us of the need to look beyond borders and to collaborate internationally so that a climate-positive recovery benefits everyone, everywhere.”

Earlier this week, a study found that the first half of 2020 saw the largest-ever drop in carbon emissions in a single year, with bigger falls than the financial crisis of 2008, the 1979 oil crisis and even World War II.

Nevertheless, by July it was found that most economies resumed their usual levels of emitting CO2 following the cessation of lockdown measures.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles