The exuberance of vaccine rollouts in rich countries is masking an ugly reality. Greenhouse gas emissions are already creeping higher than before the pandemic as economies come back to life.
That shouldn’t be a total surprise. Even as governments around the world have spent trillions of dollars to aid their nation’s recoveries, only a tiny fraction has gone toward initiatives that would also cut pollution.
Many politicians, including U.S. president Joe Biden, have adopted the phrase “build back better.” But they have yet to deliver on the promise. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the University of Oxford and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Researchers found that, out of the $14.6 trillion in spending announced by the 50 largest economies in 2020, only 2.5% has been for green activities.
And that limited stimulus isn’t evenly spread across the globe. “The vast majority of the green spending has been driven by only five countries,” said Brian O’Callaghan, project manager of the economic recovery project at the University of Oxford and a lead author of the report.
Much of the initial spending, about $11 trillion, was directed toward rescuing ailing firms, providing loans to small businesses and cash to individuals. Economists mostly agree that was necessary to avoid an even worse outcome.
But much of the rest of the stimulus money could have been better spent. “There was a rush to support companies without thinking through whether one could attach some green strings,” said Inger La Cour Andersen, executive director of UNEP. [Continue reading…]