The European Bank for Reconstruction and development (EBRD) says fiscal support for Covid-19 impacted businesses should be directed towards firms that pledge to reduce their environmental impact, arguing that escalating climate change makes future pandemics more likely.
The report, produced by ERBD economists, says large-scale public spending to counteract the Covid-19 outbreak creates an opportunity to 'tilt to green' and accelerate the drive towards a low carbon economy.
Despite calls from some countries in eastern Europe to ignore climate concerns and pour stimulus money into existing high-carbon businesses, the report urges governments not to be seduced into supporting fossil fuels.
The report argues that during the 2008-9 financial crisis global greenhouse gas emissions initially dropped, but quickly rebounded, "partly because the chance was missed to use the vast amounts of public money to set the world on a green path".
In return for public money, the report recommends, firms should commit to reduce their environmental footprint.
"More broadly, governments should put climate action and resilience at the core of economic stimulus packages and prioritise support towards green firms," the report suggests. "This will ensure that public spending helps address both the current economic crisis and the ongoing climate crisis."
The consequences of failure, the report says, are not only a worsening climate emergency but also the increased likelihood of more pandemics:
“Climate change, biodiversity loss, and financial collapses share some similarities with Covid-19: they do not observe national or even physical borders and they can be managed only through collective action that starts long before they become full-blown crises," states the report. "Moreover, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and climate change make pandemics more likely. Likewise, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that global warming will likely accelerate the emergence of new viruses.”