Health and Healthcare Systems

25 things we need to do to help save the planet after COVID-19

Environment climate change sustainability emissions

COVID-19 have created an opportunity for a greener, more sustainable future. Image: Unplash/D. Jameson RAGE

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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How to Save the Planet

This article is part of: The Davos Agenda
  • The world wasn’t prepared for COVID-19, but if we learn the lessons from the crisis we can build a better world.
  • Not only can we save the planet from the climate emergency but we can also create a fairer world with opportunities for all.
  • These 25 steps from the OECD will help us towards a green inclusive recovery.

COVID-19 has presented us with a unique opportunity for a green and inclusive recovery that will make the world a better place for everyone, says the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“The pandemic has shown us the importance of being prepared when crises hit. It has also shown us that postponing bold decisions can have huge costs,” says José Ángel Gurría, OECD Secretary General.

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“We were not prepared for the COVID-19 crisis, and we are even less prepared for the looming consequences of on-going and worsening challenges such as climate change, biodiversity collapse, life-shortening air pollution, and ocean acidification.”

Direct global greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector
Global emissions broken down by economic sector. Image: OECD

Here are the 25 things the OECD says we must do to accelerate a fair, low-carbon recovery, focusing on five key emitting sectors of the world economy – agriculture, buildings, electricity, industry and transport – and using five policy levers: investment, regulation, tax & subsidies, leadership by example, and information & education.

Agriculture

A diagram to show greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and related land use change.
4.0 Gigatonnes of Methane emissions come from land-use change. Image: OECD

1. Improve agricultural productivity in sustainable ways that lower emissions and allow us to feed a growing global population.

2. Reform food and farming regulations that lead to overproduction, waste food and distort prices and increase agricultural emissions.

3. Use the tax system and support payments to reduce emissions, taking care to avoid inflating food prices or driving farmers out of business.

4. Include agriculture in national climate change strategies to ensure its effects are not overlooked.

5. Help consumers and producers make informed food choices and reduce food waste.

Buildings

A diagram to explain how the residential sector is central to a climate neutral future
We need to ensure wider, societal benefits to create a greener future. Image: OECD

6. Ensure that public money is not spent on projects that harm the climate and invest instead in sustainable buildings.

7. Put in place stringent climate-friendly building regulations and construction standards.

8. Use tax and financial incentives to renovate and reuse existing buildings rather than always building new ones.

9. Encourage sustainable building within urban and rural planning.

10. Teach planners and builders how to construct and maintain green buildings.

Electricity

A graph to show the share of electricity generation by source
Over 60% of investment is given to fossil fuels. Image: OECD

11. Focus investments on green energy generation and sustainable power distribution networks.

12. Phase out the use of coal and switch to the green energy sources that are available locally.

13. Use carbon pricing to drive the transition to clean power and remove barriers that stop people switching to renewable energy.

14. Channel central and local government money into green energy projects.

15. Provide investors and consumers with information to ensure they choose sustainable energy.


Industry

Graphs to show the growth in materials use leading to rising emissions.
Evidence shows that rapid increases in emissions are linked to short term infrastructure growth. Image: OECD

16. Increase research and development into new low-carbon industrial processes.

17. Introduce energy efficiency regulations to reduce emissions from industry.

18. Use carbon pricing to encourage innovation without harming competitiveness.

19. Take the lead in your sector in switching to a circular economy in which resources are conserved and reused.

20. Educate business leaders and workers in energy and resource-efficient sustainable practices.

Transport

Graph to show future scenarios if CO2 emissions by road and rail continue to increase.
The non-urban passenger is expected to increasingly contribute to CO2 emissions. Image: OECD

21. Increase research into the development, production and use of zero-emission fuels.

22. Make the best use of existing transport capacity through measures like car sharing and smart logistics to improve freight efficiency.

23. Use measures like increased taxes on polluting vehicles to encourage the use of sustainable passenger and freight transport.

24. Ensure low-carbon solutions are the default choice when setting transport policies.

25. Share knowledge about proven methods of reducing transport emissions, such as teaching truckers eco-driving techniques.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsClimate ActionNature and BiodiversityForum Institutional
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