Build Back Better: Green Post-Covid Job Recovery

Right now as plans to slowly phase people back out of quarantine are being formed, there seems to be a battle between people who want to get to work sooner to help rebuild the economy, and the people who want to wait longer to prevent second virus waves and protect our society. Whatever your viewpoints on that debate is however, one thing for sure is that post-Covid recovery is going to be linked with job recovery programs and economics. Another sure thing is that climate change is still coming, and we as a society need to deal with it. So today we’re looking at the things lawmakers, businesses, and every day people need to do to create a green job recovery.

The Need 

The first thing to understand about the post-covid recovery process is that we are looking at once-in-a-generation historic changes and investments around the world with trillions of dollars getting spent worldwide. One of the simplest arguments for developing a green economy is summed up nicely by Dr Andrew Steer of the World Resources institute, who says that “It would be a tragedy if after spending $10-20tn of public money we simply rebuild the same unequal, vulnerable and high-carbon economy we had before.” The pandemic is largely acknowledged to be a product of unsanitary animal markets, conditions that are not unique to China but in some form happen everywhere there is highly cramped animal agriculture. Furthermore, despite the temporary break from modern life the pandemic is causing, we are still largely not dealing with climate change nearly to the extent that we need to, which is arguably a bigger crisis. Our economy right now is largely unequal, built around unsustainable consumption and unsustainable fossil fuel resources, and is killing us. There is simply no reason to spend all this money on a recovery program to go right back to our self-destructive system.

Green is Good

The good news is that scientists and experts all seem to agree that a green economic recovery is just plain better investment. The idea is that a good economic recovery program needs to include both short term and long term planning. Obviously any crisis recovery plan needs immediate help to the economy, such as stimulus checks and certain types of bailout just to make sure everything starts functioning in the immediate. But A true recovery only happens when you plan out the long term recovery too, and so anything that is being invested in needs to plan for decades in the future. This is of course the crux of their argument, with coal being phased out and all fossil fuels being major contributors to climate change, any plan looking far into the future needs to be built around renewable energy and waste reduction. Investments in renewable energy sources don’t simply create an immediate job, they are better long term investments as fossil fuel projects will always butt up against climate change regulations that are getting stricter and stricter. As bike lanes and electric busses take over cities, it is clear that the economic stimulus packages with the most “bang for their buck” long term are not the ones reliant on a carbon economy but the ones built towards the economy of the future. 

Amsterdam’s Example

A promising idea is being tried in Amsterdam right now, called the “doughnut theory” of economic growth. The basic idea is simple, the center of the doughnut represents the minimum living standards threshold and the out ring represents the maximum ecological capacity of the planet, and so a successful economic plan is then one that circles within the two limits. The thing that makes Amsterdam’s experiment so interesting is that the plan incorporates everything that impacts the city, not just the city limits itself. So for example, with the chocolate industry the farmers growing cocoa in Africa, the factory workers in Amsterdam making the chocolate, and the people around the world buying that chocolate all need to be factored into the system. This model is designed for a globalized world where decisions made by the city factor in everyone affected by them. Furthermore, it shows how directly linked human rights and standard of living issues are linked to the environment. Linking these ideas as a network is a system designed to prevent the kind of black and white, jobs or green economy models we are so used to seeing with a more holistic approach. This holistic, systems based thinking is the key towards a more sustainable future, and the quarantine has turned into something of a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build it.


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