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Comment: Green Recovery?

It was a big shock at the beginning of the year when it slowly became clear that COVID-19 would change the world massively. Just as quickly as the lockdown was there, people were already thinking about how to boost economy afterwards. But what is left of it?

Profit is already on top of the agenda after the coronavirus  (Image: Pixabay)Profit is already on top of the agenda after the coronavirus (Image: Pixabay)

There was talk of completely new forms of economy, of including sustainability and energy efficiency, the conversion to alternative energies. Now the global economy is gradually picking up again - boosted by billions of dollars in government aid programs - and there isn't much is left of the idea of 'green recovery'.

Instead, the money is going to those who, also decades before the pandemic, have ensured that our planet is in the given pitiful state. The International Institute for Sustainable Development recently analyzed that between the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 and July 3, 2020, the G20 countries have allocated at least $135 billion in their economic stimulus packages to fossil fuels, but only $68 billion to clean energy.

While it is a well-known fact that investments in renewable energy create three times more jobs than investments in fossil fuels, it is also a known fact that the amount of money spent on clean energy is not the same as that spent on fossil fuels. In the U.S. alone, the energy efficiency, solar, wind and clean vehicle industries grew 70 percent faster than the rest of the economy between 2015 and 2019, employing three times as many workers as the real estate, banking and agriculture sectors.

COVID-19 has already put more than 500,000 people from the renewable energy sector out of work - and hardly anyone has returned to their jobs so far. According to the Labor Department, just 3,200 people were able to resume their jobs in July. At this rate, it will take 15 years to restore all jobs in this sector.

No wonder though regarding to where the U.S. government's aid money is going: According to the database that tracks G20 nations' commitments to energy funding, the U.S. has allocated more than $72 billion to fossil fuel industries. Most of this is financial support for U.S. airlines, which are a major source of carbon emissions. Meanwhile, less than $30 billion has gone to support clean energy, mainly in the form of grants to public transportation companies.

Even the self-proclaimed 'guardians of climate protection' in Europe have gone off course (Image: Pixabay)

In Europe, too, there's no significant 'Green Recovery'. As part of the budget debate, the European Council decided to cut the research budget for 'Horizon Europe' in order to use the money to cushion the impact of the pandemic. However, cutting spending in this area is short-sighted, as Europe's long-term competitiveness depends on mastering new technologies. In times of economic downturn, public support for research is therefore particularly important, as the Association of European Renewable Energy Research Centers (EUREC) criticizes.

Instead, the money is put into the life-support of fossil fuels, as in Germany, where the operators of coal-fired power plants are allowed to keep their power plants connected to the grid for decades with fat compensation of over 4 billion € - even though it was precisely during the Corona crisis that renewables showed that they are capable of supplying the energy needed. The affected federal states and regions will also receive support of 40 billion € until 2038 for the restructuring of their economies - but without the obligation to invest this money in sustainable measures.

And so instead of green recovery, there's 'business as usual' leading the way right into the middle of the next global crisis.

Katrin Radtke
COVID-19, corona, pandemic, industry, sector, renewable energy, fossil, fuels, investment, support, government, jobs, global, crisis, economy

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