Improving resilience of supply chains while accelerating the shift towards circular economy principles
For the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis lớn be durable & resilient, a return lớn ‘business as usual’ & environmentally destructive investment patterns và activities must be avoided. Unchecked, global environmental emergencies such as climate change and biodiversity loss could cause social và economic damages far larger than those caused by COVID-19. Lớn avoid this, economic recovery packages should be designed lớn “build back better”. This means doing more than getting economies and livelihoods quickly back on their feet. Recovery policies also need khổng lồ trigger investment & behavioural changes that will reduce the likelihood of future shocks and increase society’s resilience khổng lồ them when they vị occur. Central lớn this approach is a focus on well-being & inclusiveness. Other key dimensions for assessing whether recovery packages can “build back better” include alignment with long-term emission reduction goals, factoring in resilience to lớn climate impacts, slowing biodiversity loss and increasing circularity of supply chains. In practice, well-designed recovery policies can cover several of these dimensions at once, such as catalysing the shift towards accessibility-based mobility systems, and investing in low-carbon & decentralised electricity systems.


1. Governments’ first priorities in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic have been lớn overcome the health emergency và to implement rapid economic rescue measures, the latter mostly aimed at providing essential liquidity and protecting livelihoods in the face of abrupt losses of income. As the health crisis gradually abates in some countries, attention is now turning to preparing stimulus measures for triggering economic recovery. This policy brief examines how these stimulus packages can create a recovery that “builds back better”, i.e. Not only getting economies and livelihoods back on their feet quickly, but also safeguarding prosperity for the longer term. This means triggering investments & societal changes that will both reduce the likelihood of future shocks and improve our resilience to those shocks when they bởi vì occur, whether from disease or environmental degradation. At the heart of this approach is the transition lớn more inclusive, more resilient societies with net-zero GHG emissions và much reduced impacts on nature. Other policy briefs examine the role of environmental health in strengthening resilience lớn pandemics (, 2020<1>) và COVID-19 và the low-carbon transition (, forthcoming).

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A more resilient economy depends on a shift to lớn sustainable practices

2. In addition to lớn the immediate human suffering caused by the disease itself and the loss of livelihoods for millions, the COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted several key vulnerabilities of our societies & economic system. Global interconnectedness has helped lớn create huge economic và social benefits for decades, albeit unequally, but also facilitated the rapid spread of the pandemic. More broadly, the speed and depth of the economic crisis have shown that a chip core principle of the global economy – prioritising short-term economic growth và efficiency over long-term resilience – can have huge societal costs. The precariousness of long & complex global value chains has been revealed, with many countries struggling lớn acquire medical and other strategic supplies. Social inequalities have been exposed và rapidly exacerbated by the massive but uneven loss of employment, with the equivalent of more than 300 million jobs potentially at risk (ILO, 2020<2>). Although this is not the first economic crisis lớn expose these frailties, the depth and breadth of the current circumstances have brought the issue of resilience and preparedness high in the public consciousness.

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3. The exposed vulnerabilities are particularly sobering when seen in the light of an even bigger future threat lớn the global economy: environmental degradation driven by our current economic system. The world’s environmental emergencies are as pressing as ever, even if they may seem distant during such a very human crisis. The impacts of climate change, air pollution, biodiversity loss và poor ocean health already cause immense suffering globally và harbour further systemic vulnerabilities for the global economy that could ultimately eclipse the current crisis. Physical & economic impacts from climate change are already being felt, & some regions have experienced extreme weather events at the same time as tackling COVID-19, such as super-cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh and Typhoon Vongfong in the Philippines (UN, 2020<3>). Without structural changes khổng lồ our economies, continued accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere will lead lớn potentially catastrophic further impacts. While the economic shut-down has led to lớn some widely-reported environmental improvements, such as reduced emissions of GHGs & air pollutants và less water pollution, these in themselves will have almost no long-term impact (Le Quéré et al., 2020<4>). If economic activity resumes as before, they are likely khổng lồ be temporary và quickly erased. Indeed, GHG emissions rebounded & resumed growth in the aftermath of the recent economic crises (, 2020 forthcoming).

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4. These interlinked environmental crises may also heighten the likelihood và likely impact of future infectious diseases. The economic pressures driving biodiversity loss and the destruction of ocean health can have cascading impacts on societies, và may increase the risk of future zoonotic viruses (those which jump from animals khổng lồ humans) due to the expansion of human activities leading to deforestation, combined with the increased demand for và trafficking of wildlife (Jones et al., 2013<5>). Declines in local environmental quality, including air & water pollution, can influence the vulnerability of societies both lớn disease và to the effects of a less stable climate, with impacts likely khổng lồ affect poorer communities more (, 2020<1>).

5. Returning to lớn “business as usual” will not deliver a sustained long-term economic recovery that also improves well-being & reduces inequality. With massive stimulus packages starting lớn be unveiled around the world, governments, businesses & societies as a whole have both a responsibility và self-interest to not only look for near-term measures khổng lồ shore-up livelihoods và employment, but also lớn take a step back & reflect on the political và economic driving forces leading lớn the current crisis.

6. Despite encouraging signs from governments, businesses và citizens, recovery plans have so far mostly fallen short. Many governments have recognised the need and opportunity of a sustainable recovery. For example, in April 2020, the G20 Finance Ministers agreed to lớn “commit to support an environmentally sustainable và inclusive recovery” (G20, 2020<6>). Encouragingly, an international poll covering developed & developing countries also suggests that a majority of citizens see a focus on environmental issues as a continued priority as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis (IPSOS MORI, 2020<7>). The fragilities exposed by the pandemic may act to underline the reasons that environmental issues were becoming đứng đầu political priorities around the world before COVID-19 struck. In 2019, millions of people, spearheaded by youth, protested in the streets for climate action, leading lớn several governments officially declaring a “climate emergency”. Biodiversity loss và the ongoing mass species extinction were also gaining headlines around the world, & the visible crisis engulfing the world’s oceans had become a front-line political issue in several countries. As recently as January 2020, climate change & biodiversity loss topped the World Economic Forum’s các mục of global risks (World Economic Forum, 2020<8>). The social và economic case for a sustainable, resilient recovery is very clear. Despite this, economic recovery measures proposed so far have mostly scored poorly on environmental metrics, with unsustainable support outstripping sustainable measures in many countries (Vivid Economics, 2020<9>). While there is significant tư vấn for “green” technologies và industries, in particular in European countries, in many cases this is outweighed by ongoing support for “brown” activities that may lock-in emissions intensive pathways.