The Great Reset: Sustainability in the Time of Coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic is, according to the World Economic Forum, calling for a “great reset”, where the world acts in unity to revitalize aspects of today’s society and economy. With the introduction and adoption of teleworking, remote work is gaining traction. By continuing to work at home, many eliminate daily habits that stop them from continuing or starting more sustainable habits. The lack of carbon emissions from not having to drive to work every day, not having office buildings running electricity and heat, and little to no traffic on the highways are helping to reduce our carbon footprint. This pandemic will truly prove to be a reset for the global society and economy. 

Across the globe, this reset is coming after many stimulus packages, many that prioritize sustainable recovery for businesses. The European Commission, France, Canada, and the UK have all made and effort to steer businesses towards a more environmentally friendly future. In May, the European Union announced an $826 billion dollar recovery proposal to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. 25% of the stimulus package will be given to fund sustainable and climate friendly infrastructure such as building renovations, clean energy technology, low-carbon vehicles, and sustainable land use. This $206.5 billion dollar fund is a very promising step towards sustainability and recovery after coronavirus. 

However, the critical role in pivoting the economic recovery towards a more sustainable future lies in the hands of the business stakeholders and investors. Many businesses during the pandemic have committed resources to help fight COVID-19. This reset will start turning the economy towards a more cooperative and green future. For some, businesses have needed to be pushed in a greener direction. For example, France’s bailout of Air France/KLM was conditional. In order to receive the $10 billion dollar bailout, Air France is expected to halve domestic emissions by the end of 2024, source 2 percent of fuel from sustainable sources by 2025, and to cut domestic flights where a “rail alternative… with a duration of less than 2.5 hours” exists. 

In the US, many states are also using stimulus packages in the pursuit of a more sustainable future. Governor Cuomo of New York recently announced the implementation of a clean energy investment that will boost the New York economy after COVID-19 and push the state towards cleaner energy. “During one of the most challenging years New York has ever faced, we remain laser-focused on implementing our nation-leading climate plan and growing our clean energy economy, not only to bring significant economic benefits and jobs to the state, but to quickly attack climate change at its source by reducing our emissions.” Governor Cuomo said. The plan is expected to provide around $7 billion dollars in direct investments, and to create about 4,500 good paying short and long-term jobs. This is predicted to help jumpstart New York’s economy while driving economic growth. Governor Cuomo’s plan also encourages contractors to “buy-clean” which spurs the market to produce more supplies that reduce the carbon footprint of the future such as carbon-negative cement. 

The pandemic has brought a spotlight on how businesses pursue more environmentally friendly habits, and how governments can encourage businesses and the economy to be more environmentally friendly. Whether it is less plastic waste, using recycled materials, switching to predominantly teleworking, or the many other ways that businesses can be sustainable, COVID-19 has been the catalyst for a surge in environmental advocacy.

 

 

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Kalyna White is an Assistant Editor at HSToday for Climate Change Security and is the STEM Ambassador to the Board of Directors for Women in Homeland Security. She is the founder of LABUkraine, a non-profit organization that builds computer labs for orphans in Ukraine. Since 2011 she has worked with Women in Homeland Security to encourage middle and high school student to pursue STEM careers by organizing and supporting field trips to STEM missions throughout the homeland security enterprise. She is also President of the University of California, San Diego Pi Beta Phi chapter.

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