Dr. Edward Cameron

In the midst of the COVID-19 public health emergency and economic crisis, as we yearn for the social contact and cultural activities that define our lives, it is perfectly understandable to wish for life to return to normal. However, engineering a return to the economy as it was in December 2019 would be a profound mistake. We must turn this moment of crisis into an opportunity to ‘build back better’ and construct a 21st century economy and society – one that is low-carbon, resilient and inclusive. Now is the time, in short, for a vision of ‘a world made new.’

This new policy brief issues a call for world governments to leverage the economic rescue and stimulus packages to build a better, fairer, more just and greener post-crisis world. It is also a call to all of us working on climate, environment, human rights, development and economics to get ‘out of our lanes.’

To respond to the COVID-19 crisis, the world’s largest economies have begun to design and deploy new stimulus measures which, according to the Group of 20 leading economies (G20), will reach US$5 trillion in expenditure and guarantees. This includes a US$2.7 trillion package in the United States alone. Other countries will follow; and these initial efforts are expected to be the first steps in a longer sequence of stimulus measures.

While the scale of this spending is impressive and historic, the design is critical. This massive injection of public money into the global economy can either perpetuate – and possibly worsen – existing patterns of environmental destruction, social injustice and economic inequality, or it can provide a foundation for a more just and sustainable world.

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