8 steps towards a sustainable economic recovery

economy euro

(Robert Anasch, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Gerard Reid, Founder and Partner, Alexa Capital & Clay Nesler, Vice-President, Global Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs, Johnson Controls & Christina Lampe-Onnerud, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Cadenza Innovation & Claudia Vergueiro Massei, Chief Executive Officer, Siemens Oman & Atul Arya, Senior Vice-President and Chief Energy Strategist, IHS Markit


  • A successful transition to a sustainable future will depend on international collaboration and transformations across multiple sectors.
  • Here are eight recommendations for policy-makers to hasten the green revolution.

There has been much discussion over the past few years about the ‘energy transition’. The underlying premise is that the transition to lower and zero-carbon energy sources should be accelerated to mitigate the impact of global warming. The current pandemic is shining additional light on global interconnectivity and the need to collaborate and share best practices.

Much of the focus today is on decarbonizing electric power production via renewables, but only about one quarter of global GHG emissions are from electricity. The industrial sector (refining, petrochemicals, fertilizers, cement and steel production) together generates about 21% of GHG emissions. At present, only 15% of industrial energy use is derived from electricity. Shifting the world’s transport sector, which accounts for circa 15% of global emissions, from oil-based to low carbon fuels will also require a diverse set of technologies.

As governments across the world consider implementing fiscal incentives to combat the economic downside from COVID-19 and to offset the threats posed by climate change, there are many opportunities to benefit from the sustainable revolution. Here are eight recommendations to consider for immediate implementation:

1. Ensure stimulus packages shape a sustainable future

When clean economy jobs are put at the centre of stimulus programmes, both a long and short-term jobs-boost across a diverse workforce is achieved. After the great recession in 2008, hundreds of thousands of jobs were created across the world as countries rolled out wind, solar and grid projects. Going forward, government stimulus could be used to support labour-intensive work such as energy-efficiency projects in buildings and industry. In addition, any support for carbon-intensive industries should include a commitment to carbon reduction.

2. Invest in the future

Rather than bail out the ‘past’, the better response is to enable businesses to become leaders in the future by enabling investments in technologies such as batteries, hydrogen, electric transportation, and AI, and in areas as diverse as sustainable agriculture, clean environment and clean food. It is also critical to invest in under-capitalised developing countries which are the growth markets of the future, and which are critical to meeting climate goals. Long-term government policy has traditionally inspired private capital and would potentially super-charge a global sustainable revolution.

3. Empower the consumer!

The more engaged the consumer, the greater the likelihood that stimulus packages will make positive impacts. Transparency is important and product efficiency standards for household goods or automobiles help provide this to consumers. Incentives and fees can also shape consumer behaviour and drive clean investment. One example is a ‘cash for clunkers’ programme which incentivises the purchase of cleaner vehicles, improving the climate and reducing air pollution.

4. Create a level playing field for clean energy

Across the world there are subsidies or taxes in place which benefit the incumbent fossil fuels industry at the expense of low-cost clean energy. In Germany, for instance, retail consumers pay up to 30 euros cents per kWh for electricity while gas or oil for heating purposes is only 7 cents. The introduction of a carbon fee would motivate badly needed investments in clean infrastructure, provide regulatory certainty to investors and businesses, and create a wave of entrepreneurship that can quickly stimulate the economy and benefit the environment.

5. Modernize existing infrastructure

Over many years, facility infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate and many now lack modern technology and physical infrastructure to maintain safe, efficient, resilient and flexible operations under emergency and new normal conditions. The guiding principle for infrastructure renewal should be to build back better. Renewed facilities must meet modern standards for energy efficiency and air and water quality, and minimize long-term operational costs. Facilities should also have resilient, decentralized energy systems and be able to adapt to public health or emergency situations.

6. Simplify government bureaucracy

One big obstacle to investments in clean energy is complex and burdensome regulation. For example, rooftop solar installations in most of the United States are twice as expensive as they are in Germany and take three times as long due to complex permitting regulations and cumbersome installation laws. These types of barriers exist in multiple countries across the entire energy sector, illustrating the need for simplified accreditation and permitting processes.

7. Encourage state-of-the-art electricity system installations

Electricity companies across the world have done a very good job of maintaining electricity reliability despite the coronavirus. The crisis has also shown that our power system can operate with greater amounts of intermittent renewables than previously thought. However, negative prices and increasing price volatility showed us that there is a limit to what the current system can do. Going forward, the electrification of transport and buildings (acting as “prosumers”) is the next big opportunity and challenge for power systems, driving the need to strengthen and digitalize the 21st century distribution grids.

8. Incentivise energy sector restructuring

The fossil fuel industry, from shale oil drillers in Texas to coal miners in China, is in economic distress. Much of the industry will have to go through significant restructuring, causing local economic impacts. Financial incentives need to fund the transition to the clean energy economy and convert shuttered fossil fuel plants to alternative uses such as data centres.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.

Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including, Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

Building momentum

In summary, these eight recommendations can help lead the way towards a low-carbon, clean energy future. By using the momentum prompted by the global pandemic, a “can do” attitude from our political leaders, global businesses and local communities, provide awesome opportunities to build a sustainable future globally now. It is, perhaps our biggest opportunity to do good across the world.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

How Google is fighting fire with real-time mapping data

TTIP’s 11th round major takeaways and the usual “leaked” document

Donald Trump’s victory is a great opening for global EU leadership on the sustainability agenda

The opportunity of studying Medicine abroad

The age of influence: why digital platforms must come clean about political ads

16 foods that are good for you – and the planet

MEPs propose measures to combat mobbing and sexual harassment

First 17 “European Universities” selected: a major step towards building a European Education Area

EP and EU ministers agree on Erasmus+ programme for 2021-2027

7 amazing ways artificial intelligence is used in healthcare

European Commission: Does Apple, Starbucks and Fiat really pay their taxes?

Here’s the secret to financing a greener future

High-technology manufacturing saves the EU industry

Britain in and out of the EU

‘We cannot lose momentum’ on the road to peace in Yemen, UN envoy warns

OECD Steel Committee concerned about excess capacity in steel sector

These countries are best at attracting and nurturing talented workers

5 ways blockchain can transform the world of impact investing

The succesful cooperation

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Bicycles for the environment, new leader for the UN General Assembly, UN values, Ebola, Syria and Libya

This is how a smart factory actually works

The Bavarians threaten Berlin and Brussels with immigration crisis

Forget 2009, this is the real credit crisis of our time

Philanthropy is at a turning point. Here are 6 ways it could go

Turbocharging scientific discovery: with bits, neurons, qubits – and collaboration

Protests, violence in Haiti prompts international call for ‘realistic and lasting solutions’ to crisis

What the future holds for the EU – China relations?

We now know how much ice Antarctica has lost in the last 25 years – three trillion tonnes

Talking the talk: the voice-recognition disruptors looking to outsmart big tech

The US calls off globalization, targets Germany. Paris offer to Berlin comes at a cost

Protectionism doesn’t stand a chance in the age of connectivity

How technology can help us achieve universal healthcare

EU continues targeting on Chinese steel imports instead of the revival of its own economy

E-Government can be a remedy for the crisis

Hatred ‘a threat to everyone’, urges Guterres calling for global effort to end xenophobia and ‘loathsome rhetoric’

Air quality: Commission takes action to protect citizens from air pollution

Changing for the change: Medicine in Industry 4.0

How is the global economy fairing 11 years after the financial crisis?

Yemen parties underscore ‘strong desire’ for peace, UN Envoy reports

Is this the way to finally beat corruption?

Health spending set to outpace GDP growth to 2030

MEPs urge EU states to ensure better care of transported animals

The West is struggling to hit its climate targets. What would the developing world do differently?

These 11 EU states already meet their 2020 renewable energy targets

Yoga as medicined for the mental distress amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: integrative and complementary practices

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Climate crisis and food risks, fresh violence threat for millions of Syrians, calls for calm in Kashmir

Global warming: our responsibility

Here’s how one business leader is tackling injustice: It starts with personal commitment

How digital is your country? Europe needs Digital Single Market to boost its digital performance

The world just took a step closer to eradicating polio

How technology can help India breathe more easily

Nothing about us without us: how youth empowerment creates lasting change in the climate meltdown

A new era of computing is coming. How can we make sure it is sustainable?

Here are three ways Africa’s youth are defeating corruption

Closing the gaps in accelerating women’s rights: the role of medical students

ECB offers cheaper money despite reactions from Germany

Four lessons from Africa on building effective business ecosystems

Brexit negotiations: back to square one, tougher words, no good faith

Coronavirus: here’s what you need to know about face masks

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s