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The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically exposed the unhealthy and unsustainable relationship among the environment, society and economics. While still confronting disease containment and potential vaccinations, governments are considering reform and economic stimulus measures that are unprecedented in scale. It is imperative that the world not return to business as usual, and that we work to rebuild healthy, sustainable and equitable societies.
As part of the “Green Recovery Dialogues” webinar series on a green and resilient recovery, the OECD, WWF, the EDF, in collaboration with the World Bank, have collaborated to deliver a series of high-level dialogues on health and environment. These conversations aim to explore the challenges and opportunities for integrating health and environment considerations onto the rebuilding process at local, national and global scales, including policies and financial instruments that incentivize healthier and more equitable, low carbon economies.
It has been widely reported that air quality in cities around the world has suddenly improved due to quarantines — but it was only temporary, and the reopening of economies means the return of air pollution from vehicle traffic and commercial and industrial activity. Our goal must be clean air with prosperity.
Air pollution, of course, varies greatly from place to place. Low wealth communities and communities of color experience a greater burden from pollution because they’re more likely to be situated near or downwind of refineries, ports, highways and other sources of unhealthy emissions.
A green recovery would offer economic returns on government investments, generate growth and create jobs. It would also put the world on track to a more healthy and sustainable future, reduce the risks of future pandemics, improve our public health and environmental outcomes and establish us on a much-needed pathway toward a 100% clean future.
The question in front of many governments, businesses and civil society is what policies and investments are needed to ensure a healthy, sustainable recovery that builds resilient, equitable societies.