We must build back greener from Covid-19 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 12, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:12 AM, August 12, 2020

We must build back greener from Covid-19

We are at a turning point for our planet. As we recover from Covid-19, governments across the world are putting in place packages to revive their economies. 

The decisions we make now will determine whether the planet builds back greener and more resilient for future generations to come.

As hosts of the next United Nations Climate Change conference, taking place in November 2021, we want to raise global commitments to reduce carbon emissions, by urging all countries to invest in a green recovery which addresses the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and public health.

Since March, the UK government has taken further concrete action towards building a sustainable future. And through our COP Presidency, in addition to the primary task of taking forward the multilateral negotiations, we will focus on taking action in five key areas.

We must clean up the air we breathe by promoting "cleaner transport". The UK government is spending 2bn pounds to create a new era for cycling and walking, ordering over 4,000 new zero-emission buses, and investing 500m pounds in new infrastructure for electric vehicles.

The transition to a "clean energy" future needs accelerating. Just this month, the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a 3bn pounds commitment to improve the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals across the UK and to create 140,000 green jobs. The scheme for homes includes a voucher programme for lower income households so the benefits of having a greener home is not exclusive.

It's vital that our "natural environments"are restored and protected. We're putting 650m pounds towards protecting habitats through projects such as tree planting and river clean-ups, and creating new green spaces for people and wildlife.

The world needs to become more "resilient"to the impacts of extreme weather. The UK is investing more than 5bn pounds domestically to improve our flood and coastal defences. Through the UN, we're simultaneously working with our Egyptian partners to lead an international coalition to take action and showcase best practice on adaptation and resilience, ensuring the most vulnerable are protected from the effects of climate change.

And tying it all together, we must harness the power of our "financial systems" to unlock growth, create green jobs and fund essential projects. Last year the UK doubled its international climate finance commitment to 11.6bn pounds until 2025, and we encourage our international development partners to increase their support for developing countries too.

These five areas are obviously important for the health of our planet, but it's becoming increasingly clear that a green recovery makes economic sense too. The International Energy Agency has found that USD 1trn of investment in renewable energy sources over the next three years could create nine million green jobs.

And we know that wind or solar is now the cheapest source of new electricity generation for more than two-thirds of the world's population. And by 2030 they will undercut existing coal and gas production almost everywhere.

The UK has demonstrated that green growth is possible—since 1990 we have grown our economy by 75 percent, whilst cutting emissions by 43 percent.

We must continue to build on this positive progress, and we will do so using the Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development goals as guiding frameworks for a green recovery.

We call on other countries to join us, and we will work with our international partners to ensure these five key areas are embedded in sustainable and inclusive recovery packages across the world's largest nations. We want to ensure that the benefits of green recovery are accessible to the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change.

Together, we can use the opportunity to build back better and greener to unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement, set the planet on an accelerated trajectory towards meeting our climate change commitments, and contribute to our economic recovery.

We must use the time ahead of COP26 to unite behind a fairer, greener and more resilient global economy for both our people and planet. We do not have time to waste.


Alok Sharma, the UK secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and President-elect of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, UK in November 2021 (COP26) speaks on the importance of a green recovery from the global Covid-19 crisis and how the UK is championing the charge to COP26.

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