The International Monetary Fund (IMF) sees the global economy shrinking by up to 3 percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and calls this “the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression.” Wiping out working hours equivalent to 195 million full-time workers, the International Labor Organization (ILO) warns that the pandemic will have a devastating impact on employment. Across the world, the pandemic has upended people’s lives and made more visible stark structural inequalities in society.

Many governments have started considering longer term recovery measures and stimulus packages to help boost their economies and avoid longer-term impacts. Voices urging governments to ensure that these recovery efforts are used to build economies that are geared towards the climate and sustainability commitments of  the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development abound and include the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, as well as international organisations, business representatives, and civil society.

Rachel Kyte of The Fletcher School at Tufts University (upper left), SEI’s Michael Lazarus (lower left), and Sweden’s deputy prime minister Isabella Lövin (lower right), joined moderator Mark Leon Goldberg (upper right) in discussing a sustainable COVID-19 recovery. The screenshot does not capture Henrik Henriksson, president and CEO of Scania, who also participated.

On 29 April, the question of how to make the COVID-19 recovery sustainable, just and resilient was taken up by Sweden’s deputy prime minister Isabella Lövin; the president and CEO of vehicle manufacturer Scania, Henrik Henriksson; Rachel Kyte, Dean of the Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and SEI’s US Centre Director Michael Lazarus. The webinar is available to watch above.

The recording, moderated by Mark Leon Goldberg, was also edited into a podcast episode of “Global Dispatches – World News That Matters.”

Listen to the Global Dispatches episode

The episode “Climate Change and the COVID-19 Economic Recovery” is available on all major podcast platforms, such as AppleSpotify and Google.

Read here a selection of insights from the panelists.

Learning lessons from the past:

“We should not repeat the mistakes that were made during and after the 2008 financial crisis. During that crisis emissions fell globally, but then all these stimulus packages came along and in 2011 global emissions rose by some 4-5%.”

— Isabella Lövin, Minister for Environment and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister, Sweden

The economic impact in developing countries:

“We're just beginning to realise what the dimensions of the pandemic will mean for economies and societies and well-being in emerging markets. We've seen commodity prices drop by over 20 percent. We've seen a drying up of remittances unprecedented in the history of remittances. We're also starting to see capital flight.”

— Rachel Kyte, Dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

A narrow window of opportunity:

“We’re all in an unprecedented global crisis right now with COVID-19. But at the same time, we have another crisis – the climate crisis – and we cannot forget about that.”

— Isabella Lövin, Minister for Environment and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister, Sweden

“Sustainability is not a trend, it’s a condition for future business success and it’s clear for politicians and business. ”

— Henrik Henriksson, CEO and President, Scania

“There’s an opportunity to build fairer and greener sets of economies as we gear out of the current crisis.”

— Rachel Kyte, Dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

A high-risk moment:

“This moment poses a high risk of favouring carbon-intensive industries, especially oil and gas. That’s a product in part of not just the oil market crash we’ve seen, but the tight connections between the industries and governments around the world. ”

— Michael Lazarus, Senior Scientist and US Centre Director, SEI

Policy measures for a sustainable recovery:

“We have an opportunity to remove subsidies and consider duties on oil and gas that can help to support the sort of investments that we need to see happening.”

— Michael Lazarus, Senior Scientist and US Centre Director, SEI

Anchoring a sustainable recovery in the EU:

“We are aligning with other ministers in the EU to keep the Green Deal at the center of the response for the COVID-19 crisis and the economic crisis. We’re 19 ministers now that have signed up and are urging the commission to be very firm and have the Green Deal as the fundament of a recovery package, but are also working on reaching out to likeminded all over the world.””

— Isabella Lövin, Minister for Environment and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister, Sweden

“One way to create Interest in a green transition in Eastern Europe is by way of the bioeconomy, The bioeconomy is a lever for us to create growth particularly in this region. There is a lot of contaminated land from Soviet times that cannot be used to grow crops. But it could be used for biofuels for the transport sector. That's a high-tech industry that would create high quality jobs. ”

— Henrik Henriksson, CEO and President, Scania