Wind power or wind energy is the use of wind to provide the mechanical power through wind turbines to turn electric generators and traditionally to do other work, like milling or pumping. (Contributed)

Corporate COVID bailouts should come with “green strings” attached

After the 2008 stock and housing market crash plunged the U.S. and world into economic upheaval, governments came to the rescue, with trillions of dollars in corporate bailouts.

Executives at the insurance firm AIG were so happy with their $152 billion package (more than U.S. and European countries spent in total on developmental aid the same year), they celebrated with a $440,000 trip to a luxury spa resort.

As with the 2008-09 financial crisis, CO2 emissions have dropped during the pandemic.

But the 2009 economic stimulus and recovery ignited a renewed spike in emissions.

The measures revived struggling economies and it wasn’t long before industrial interests were again fuelling engines of habitat destruction, pollution, climate disruption and other environmental devastation.

COVID-19 is revealing that recovery’s unstable foundation.

As governments worldwide develop plans to recover from this pandemic’s impacts, we have to ensure it’s a lasting recovery that puts us on track to confront current and future threats, including the climate and biodiversity crises.

An International Institute for Sustainable Development study, conducted at the request of leading Canadian environmental organizations including the David Suzuki Foundation, argues any corporate bailouts and stimulus spending should come with “green strings” attached.

Measures to stimulate the economy shouldn’t make the climate crisis worse and should aim for a sustainable, equitable, resilient future for all.

As economists and others worldwide have been saying, our recovery from this pandemic will be stronger if we correct course away from activities that cause climate disruption, biodiversity loss, environmental devastation and increasing disease spread — and exacerbate inequality.

Former Bank of Canada and Bank of England governor Mark Carney says the world can’t afford to miss an opportunity as it did after the 2008 financial crisis.

“You can’t wish away the systemic risk,” he said. “In the end, a small investment up front can save a tremendous cost down the road.”

Research shows environmentally targeted stimulus measures offer as many or more employment and economic benefits as neutral or harmful measures.

Studies of U.S. stimulus policies during the 2008-09 global financial crisis found green policies performed well, especially compared to fossil fuel infrastructure funding.

A survey of 230 leading economists representing 53 countries, published in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy, found “green stimulus measures” were “among the most beneficial for the economy, as well as having strong potential to cut emissions,” and “could help decouple emissions from growth, avoid stranded assets — and stranded jobs — and redirect the global economy towards a more prosperous net-zero emissions pathway.”

The IISD study calls on Canada to adopt a range of measures, from making funding for industry conditional on measurable plans to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050, to ensuring support goes to workers and not executive perks, buybacks and dividends.

Study co-author Aaron Cosbey said government recovery plans will determine our environmental footprint for decades.

“We’ll end up spending hundreds of billions of dollars on relief and recovery — an unprecedented investment by Canadian taxpayers. It’s the government’s right and duty to attach conditions to that spending, making sure it drives us toward the future we all want: a green, prosperous Canada.”

The European Union is already taking up the challenge, forming a “green recovery alliance,” initiated in response to calls from European environment ministers “for the European Green Deal to be centralized in the EU’s post-pandemic recovery plan.”

“We are choosing to accelerate the ecological transition when the time comes to reinvest in the economy,” said European Parliament environment committee chair Pascal Canfin.

“COVID-19 has not made the climate crisis go away.”

Amsterdam is the first city to replace the antiquated economic growth model with “doughnut economics” as a guide for public policy decisions.

Oxford University economist Kate Raworth developed the model, based on the idea that an economy should meet everyone’s core needs within the means of the planet.

Many are feeling the effects of the pandemic — isolation, job loss, economic upheaval, illness, death — and the desire is to quickly return to “normal.”

But “normal” isn’t good enough, as we learned in 2009. To ensure our well-being and survival, we must build back better. We have the knowledge, resources and research to do it. All we need now is political will.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior writer and editor Ian Hanington.

Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.

ColumnistDavid Suzuki

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

85-year-old Comox sprinter competes in worldwide virtual track meet

Toronto was slated to be the host city for the 2020 World… Continue reading

City of Courtenay 2019 annual report available for review

The City of Courtenay has released the draft 2019 Annual Report highlighting… Continue reading

Scaled-down Comox Valley Exhibition set for Aug. 28-30

The Comox Valley Exhibition is a go for 2020. The annual event… Continue reading

Military personnel relocation producing many foreign licence plates in the Comox Valley

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott is asking the public to consider the possible… Continue reading

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Police find used, uncapped needle tied to handrail in Vancouver Island Park

Officers believe the needle was put there with the intent to harm someone

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Most Read