The head of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) on Thursday called for a global Green New Deal in which redirected financial flows usher in an age of sustainable, post-pandemic growth that takes the heat out of dangerous planetary warming.
“Climate action and COVID-19 recovery measures must be mutually supportive to be effective,” said GCF Executive Director Yannick Glemarec during an international conference in South Korea exploring how COVID-19 recovery efforts can be directed away from investments that are harming the planet towards those creating a global green economy.
The “International Conference on the Green New Deal: Green stimulus in the post-COVID-19 Era and beyond” attracted over 1,000 participants, mostly online, from across the world to hear how measures addressing the broadest economic collapse in a century can shift the economic paradigm towards zero-carbon, climate-resilient development.
The conference focused on South Korea’s national plans to counter the effects of the pandemic through economic recovery pathways leading to future carbon neutrality, while also reflecting on how similar “Green New Deals” are being adopted across the world.
In his opening speech, Mr Glemarec told the event participants that countries are expected to update their commitments to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement while also coping with the economic collapse created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “promise of the Green New Deal” is the way that COVID-19 measures can also foster “sustainable growth through triggering financially attractive investment in green, resilient infrastructure, technologies, business models and institutions,” he added.
The conference was jointly organised by GCF, the world’s largest dedicated fund supporting climate action in developing countries, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance of South Korea, GCF’s host country.
South Korea is adopting a number of measures designed to transform its proven ability to industrialise rapidly to take the lead in harnessing green development. This includes a plan to at least treble the number of solar and wind power facilities by 2025, compared with last year.
While highlighting domestic moves to embrace a green transition, South Korean Deputy Prime Minister Nam-ki Hong added that the scale of the climate endeavour requires global action. “Climate change reaches all countries around the world, and cannot be contained by the efforts of one single country,” he said.
Reflecting the urgency COVID-19 has brought to the need to take climate action, conference participants considered how the paths that countries take now in recovering from COVID-19 will determine whether the world achieves the Paris Agreement goals and a net zero emissions future.
Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action and UN Assistant Secretary-General for the Climate Action Team, pointed out that every continent is already experiencing unprecedented climate impacts - ranging from record wildfires, ice melting in polar regions and increasing more frequent and intense tropical cyclones, droughts and floods.
“And just last week the World Meteorological Organization confirmed that global emissions are returning to pre-pandemic levels and that we are approaching the internationally agreed 1.5 temperature limit much faster than previously predicted,” he added.
A number of participants stressed the need for increased public and private sector finance flows to fill the funding gaps developing countries face in their ability to carry out green, resilient recovery to COVID-19.
“We need the appropriate financial resources not only to fight climate change or biodiversity or land degradation but to have a global green recovery,” said Egyptian Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad.
Armenia’s Deputy Minister of Environment Irina Ghaplanyan stressed that the twin COVID-19 and climate challenges require us to “rewire the way we perceive growth and the way we run our economies.” “Armenia’s transition to carbon neutrality is not simply a feel-good political endeavor but one that is at the core of the country’s energy independence, energy security and resilient and green growth,” she added.
Meanwhile, Columbia University Professor and Nobel Economics Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz emphasised that the imperative to build back greener after COVID-19 needs to go beyond the purview of economists and policy makers. “Citizens have a right to demand that the post-pandemic economy accords with their values, and their vision of what kind of economy and society we want to emerge after the pandemic,” he said.
The International Conference on the Green New Deal is expected to generate further discussions on how measures addressing the twin negatives of COIVD-19 and climate change can create a positive path to a safer planet.