Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, the phrase ‘Building Back Better’ is everywhere, providing a framework for recovery from the world’s worst crisis in generations. One after the other, governments have pledged to act boldly coming out of COVID-19 shutdowns by focusing investments and actions on a green recovery. But that’s not happening. CO² emissions will rise dramatically, soaring to an all-time-high by 2023. We are not building back better.
(This post was previously published in Common Dreams.)
CO² Heading for All-Time-High
The International Energy Agency warned Tuesday that global carbon dioxide emissions are on track to soar to record levels in 2023—and continue rising thereafter—as governments fail to make adequate investments in green energy and end their dedication to planet-warming fossil fuels.
In a new report, IEA estimates that of the $16 trillion world governments have spent to prop up their economies during the coronavirus crisis, just 2% of that total has gone toward clean energy development.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, slammed what he characterized as the hypocrisy of rich governments that promised a green recovery from the pandemic but have thus far refused “to put their money where their mouth is.” Research published last month revealed that between January 2020 and March 2021, the governments of wealthy G7 nations poured tens of billions of dollars more into fossil fuels than renewable energy.
On top of being “far from what’s needed to put the world on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century,” Birol said that the money allocated to green energy measures thus far is “not even enough to prevent global emissions from surging to a new record.”
Only 2% of Post-Pandemic Investments Are Clean Energy
“Governments need to increase spending and policy action rapidly to meet the commitments they made in Paris in 2015—including the vital provision of financing by advanced economies to the developed world,” Birol continued. “But they must then go even further by leading clean energy investment and deployment to much greater heights beyond the recovery period in order to shift the world onto a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050, which is narrow but still achievable—if we act now.”
We just launched @IEA’s new Sustainable Recovery Tracker to measure how governments’ responses to the Covid-19 crisis are affecting clean energy investment & CO2 emissions.
— Fatih Birol (@fbirol) July 20, 2021
The IEA’s analysis—which examines roughly 800 policies implemented throughout the coronavirus crisis by more than 50 countries—finds that “full and timely implementation” of the economic recovery measures would result in CO2 emissions surging to an “all-time high” in 2023 and continuing to rise in the following years, more than wiping out the pandemic-related emissions drop.
“While this trajectory is 800 million tonnes lower in 2023 than it would have been without any sustainable recovery efforts,” the analysis notes, “it is nonetheless 3,500 million tonnes above” what’s necessary to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Paris-based agency’s latest findings come just months after it said world governments must immediately halt all new investments in oil and gas projects in order to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis, which is wreaking havoc across the globe in the form of catastrophic flooding, deadly heatwaves, drought, and wildfires.
Not Building Back Better – Over $3.3 Trillion to Fossils
Birol plans to present the IEA’s new report to the leaders of G20 nations, which—according to research published Tuesday morning—have handed more than $3.3 trillion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry since the Paris climate accord was finalized in 2015.
“The action taken by these countries up until this point is a far cry from what is needed,” Antha Williams, the environment lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies, which helped conduct the subsidy research, told The Guardian. “As a host of climate emergencies intensify around the world, the continued development of fossil fuel infrastructure is nothing short of reckless. We need more than just words—we need action.”
“As policy-makers design economic recovery plans, they are making decisions that will cast the die of our economy for decades to come. For this once-in-a-generation investment, it’s vital that we look ahead and invest in building an economy that’s ready for tomorrow, instead of spending large amounts of public money on infrastructure and technologies that will soon be outdated.” — Ralph Torrie, Celine Bak, Toby Heaps, Building Back Better With a Bold Green Recovery
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.