No matter where you are, your country’s leaders are figuring out how to rebuild from the economic and social shocks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Imagine if those leaders used this moment to pivot away from the resource-hungry economic model that drove last century’s growth toward a more resilient approach that works with nature rather than against it. Imagine if your government proposed a stimulus package that included significant investments in protecting and restoring ecosystems that underpin your economy along with low-carbon, climate-resilient approaches to energy, construction, and transport.
This is not “pie in the sky,” as you might think. It is exactly what the European Commission has proposed as the basis for a €750 billion “European Green Deal.” The package would include major investments in protecting and restoring forests, soils, wetlands, and rivers as well as transforming agricultural practices to make them more sustainable. Europe’s “Green Deal” is far from a done deal; a political process is just beginning during which vested interests will undoubtedly push to water it down. But it is an example of the kind of longer-term, visionary thinking that is critically needed at this moment. As countries look to build back better after the coronavirus pandemic, investments in protecting and restoring nature can deliver significant economic returns and employment benefits at a time when both are urgently needed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already had significant negative impacts on economic well-being around the world. Alongside the grim toll of lives lost and upended by the pandemic, unemployment has spiked, economic growth forecasts have been revised downward, and supply chains have been disrupted. The pandemic has led to a major crisis for the global economy and for individual countries struggling to sustain growth or continue progress on their development trajectories.
As countries focus on addressing the wrenching effects of the coronavirus pandemic, other global priorities remain critically important. We are still on track for at least 2o Celsius of global warming, and the various effects of climate change are already with us — from rising temperatures to more frequent and intense storms and droughts. More than one million species are threatened with extinction. Emerging evidence links the transmission of zoonotic diseases, like COVID-19, to deforestation and land degradation.