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When are we going to see some climate initiatives?

Many politicians and opinion formers are saying that the support packages that have emerged during the pandemic offer an opportunity to take clear steps towards a climate reset. But nothing has happened as yet. There is a clear risk that us middle aged are giving younger generations a big fat double whammy: an urgent climate crisis and national debts that can take decades to repay.

 The current level of greenhouse gas emissions is unsustainable. If we are to be able to limit global warming, investments in new technology and new infrastructure are some of the steps that need to be taken. But this has not been happening on the scale necessary.

In the wake of the pandemic, Sweden, like many other countries, have presented a substantial support package. Impressive investments are being made at short notice. Few if any people seem to be questioning the effectiveness of such initiatives or calling for socio-economic analyses of the consequences. There is a broad consensus that a crisis calls for strong actions.

Many politicians and opinion pieces point to the possibility of steering these support packages in a way that contributes towards a climate reset. Now at a time when larger than normal funds are being made available, there are opportunities to invest in climate measures that also support the economy at the same time. If these support measures are purely broad rather than targeted initiatives, we risk legitimising today’s unsustainable systems and in so doing, make any climate reset that much more difficult.

In a recent article with renowned economists from England and the USA, five areas were identified as contributing to both economy and climate-related goals:

– investments in green infrastructure
– refurbishments of buildings
– training to reduce unemployment
– investments in increased eco system services (link to old blog)
– research and innovation in climate smart solutions

However, the investments that have been done today, do not primarily fit this profile. One example is the government’s spring amending budget. A summary of the investments that have been made in association with the coronavirus  shows that around one thousandth of the SEK 100 billion or so being invested is related to climate change (an extended biogas investment).

The support packages that have been resolved on so far, are unlikely to be the last. There is a possibility that future packages will include clearer initiatives. Or maybe they will then argue that there is now no longer enough scope for them.

The risk is that we will find our ourselves in the same situation as before the coronavirus crisis of not being able to prioritise climate investments, of having to focus on the most immediate problem and that, after the coronavirus crisis, there will no longer by any resources left for this. We can do better than that.