A Green Recovery

4 August 2020


Reported by Kate McNeil, CSaP Communications Coordinator

How can we move towards cleaner, greener and smarter forms of growth in the aftermath of the current crisis?

In the last seminar of a three part series which sought to explore the policy drivers of health and economics in the context of the covid-19 pandemic, we took a closer look at whether the current crisis will cause the global community to question the healthiness of our economic model. As decision makers and societies reflect on what the post-pandemic 'new normal' might look like, we asked: could covid-19 be the catalyst for accelerating the transition to a cleaner, greener, smarter model of growth?

According to Nesta CEO Ravi Gurumurthy, past crises and the post-2008 Great Recession posed significant challenges to those advocating for environmental-friendly policymaking. In the midst of a financial crisis, he suggests that it can be difficult to maintain the pace and ambition of sustainability goals while policymakers navigate through difficult political waters. Consequently, he believes that covid-19 and the recession which will follow is likely to challenge many of the UK's commitments to decarbonisation. Economic priorities may compete with environmental priorities, while demand for better housing, improved social care, and more funding for the NHS may prove to have larger constituencies and be more politically noisy than climate change.

However, Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Director of Cambridge Zero, has noted that the current crisis has created a pivotal reset moment, in which many people have begun to re-evaluate what is important in their lives, particularly with regard to binary considerations such as the economy vs the environment. With appropriate leadership, she suggests that this moment is an opportunity to reset the dialogue of what is important in our lives and the policies associated with it. Moreover, there is a lot of evidence that a green recovery would be the most effective strategy, with green stimulus policies creating more jobs and providing a higher short-term fiscal multiplier and a larger long-run reduction in costs. Here, Mr Gurumurthy has noted that the narrative around a 'green recovery' and a 'Green New Deal' is one that many people around the world are embracing in this current crisis.

Pathways to a Green Recovery:

During past crises, legally binding targets and commitments through the European Union have helped the UK to preserve some of our green commitments. Moreover, Mr Gurumurthy has suggested that political competition around a green economic recovery must be a vital part of this policy development process if we are to build a greener economy. Meanwhile, Dr Shuckburgh has suggested that the policies which will help take us out of the current crisis involve two key elements: the first in short-term positive economic impact, and the second is longer-term structural changes that will increase general prosperity while addressing social inequalities and moving towards a zero carbon world. She suggests investment in renewable energies and low carbon transport as examples where investment can create significant short-term returns while also having a positive long-term impact. Consequently, she suggests that a greener recovery must focus on investing in assets which will provide longer term benefits to future generations and our natural world.

Climate Policy & International Affairs:

Taking a leadership role in climate policy, including taking leadership in decarbonizing heat and improving delivery of our sustainability commitments will prove vital to the UK's soft power global leadership role in the next decade, according to Mr Gurumurthy. Furthermore, Dr Shuckburgh has highlighted three key areas of foreign policy which will prove vital to a green recovery, namely: international collaborations in research and development; exploring the benefits of international trade and cooperation following the development of renewable energy technologies; and supporting international development while building resilience and climate-smart infrastructure around the world.