New Zealand not alone in looking for sustainable post COVID-19 rebuild according to report prepared for The Aotearoa Circle’s Fenwick Forum

For The Aotearoa Circle

New Zealand is not alone in planning for a sustainable post COVID-19 rebuild according to a report surveying the recovery plans of the EU and 15 countries around the world.

The report, prepared for The Aotearoa Circle by UK-based environmentalist Sir Jonathan Porritt, will inform The Fenwick Forum, a virtual meeting of 65 corporate and public sector leaders on 11 June. Their aim is to ensure COVID-19 recovery investment supports both economic recovery and ultimate protection and restoration of our natural environment.

Sir Jonathon’s report, Building Back Better: POST-COVID-19 Recovery Planning says at least US$5 trillion has already been committed by governments around the world to prevent their economies imploding.

“It is no exaggeration to say the way in which those trillions of dollars are deployed will have a massive influence on the future of humankind. Ideally, no single dollar should be spent that doesn’t simultaneously address today’s twin crises of the Climate Emergency and our collapsing ecosystems.

“In comparison to recovery plans brought forward after the 2008 Financial Crash, we can already say the prevailing rhetoric in response to the coronavirus crisis, preparing the ground for the detailed recovery programmes to follow, is significantly more focussed on climate change and on a raft of opportunities to prioritise public spending in addressing the climate emergency. There is considerable momentum gathering behind the idea of ‘building back better’ in this way.“

But he warns against complacency. “Even the EU’s €750bn Next Generation recovery plan, which represents the most ambitious climate-focused recovery plan to date, has a long way to go before it can be turned into specific spending plans and delivered projects on the ground.”

Sir Jonathan says one aspect of the EU’s recovery plans plan that stands out is its unambiguous commitment to ensuring the transition from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy and transport systems is just. “Policies have to be designed in such a way that those already disadvantaged by current economic orthodoxies should not be further disadvantaged.”

From the point of view of partners of the Aotearoa Circle, keen to pick up on examples of good (or even best) practice elsewhere in the world, he says by far the biggest disappointment in this research is the near-total lack of any government leadership on biodiversity, on ecosystem protection and restoration, or on the underpinning value of natural capital for any economy’s prospective recovery.

“This dearth of international examples provides a unique challenge for the New Zealand Government and its agencies, for all private sector interests in New Zealand, and for the Aotearoa Circle in particular. The world is clearly crying out for purposeful leadership in this space, as well as on the Climate Emergency, and New Zealand finds itself with an unparalleled opportunity to provide exactly that kind of leadership.”

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