BANGKOK: Earlier this month, a group of diplomats, politicians and journalists gathered at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok to discuss an issue of global importance – how to manage a green recovery from COVID-19.

This year was meant to be a critical year, they argued, for tackling climate change, where big decisions would be made and transformative policies imagined to avoid future calamity.

Instead, they noted that major climate conferences had been postponed and a crisis of potentially staggering magnitude had drifted back to being tomorrow’s problem.

The event, hosted by the embassy, looked to discuss the ways Thailand could stay on a green path, despite the impacts of the pandemic. It is an issue countries around the world are grappling with

The pandemic has brought unforeseeable economic and social stress across the world. Despite that, some experts believe it has also brought a timely opportunity – a big reset button that could recalibrate government action on the environment and climate.

However, pre-pandemic budget constraints and business-as-usual policymaking have been obstacles to making the changes needed to mitigate the temperature increases, sea level rises and unstable, more extreme weather that climate change is already bringing.

In a bid to rescue their economies, funds are being diverted to big businesses, major industries, public sectors and to the hip pockets of consumers. Globally, trillions of dollars are being injected into economies, providing an unprecedented window to lock in climate change resiliency.

“This is a critical window of opportunity,” Dr Leonie Pearson, a senior research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), told CNA.

“Mainly because with governments investing such large budgets into stimulus, they will have a strain of access to capital and resources in the coming decade. Meaning that if we do not use this government spending effectively to deliver sustainability and climate change issues, there will be less available in the near future,” she said.

The massive stimulus into Southeast Asian economies – so far about US$350 billion – has overwhelmingly been focused on protecting jobs and keeping businesses afloat. Asia’s economic performance is expected to flatline in 2020, its worst in 60 years, according to the International Monetary Fund.

But analysts argue that necessary caveats for spending should be the inclusion of green measures to make sure the future is different. This is once-in-a-generation action that will have a profound impact on emissions, whether it is taken into account or not.

Read the full article at Channel News Asia.