Promoting measures to green the post-pandemic recovery

One of the key tasks of the UN Issue-based Coalition on Environment and Climate Change for Europe and Central Asia led by UNESCO, UNEP and UNECE and consisting of 18 member agencies, is to provide support to Resident Coordinators and UN country teams on key environment-related topics such as the COVID-19 socioeconomic impact assessment and promoting a green post-pandemic recovery strategy.

The current pandemic has not only exacerbated economic inequalities but also negatively impacted the necessary ecological transition. To guide Resident Coordinators (RCs) and UN Country Teams (UNCTs) towards a green post-pandemic recovery, the UN Issue-based Coalition (IBC) has prepared a compendium of 20 practical measures to incorporate in post-COVID recovery plans. The compendium was presented to the RCs and UNCTs during the Webinar on promoting measures to green the post-pandemic recovery held on 19 January 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great socio-economic crisis. Governments are responding with recovery plans and economic stimulus measures. In sub-regional meetings conducted in early 2020, the RCs requested the IBC to provide guidance and tools for assisting countries in integrating environmental and climate change issues into their recovery strategies and supporting a “building back better” approach.

The IBC identified a set of recommendations for pathways for a more inclusive, environmentally sustainable and resilient COVID-19 recovery. Making use of the diverse expertise of the 18 IBC member organizations, the recommendations issued in August 2020 provided basic guidance to various stakeholders working on recovery plans and assessments of the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic.

©Pixabay – Water access

Since then, the IBC has worked further to provide more detailed guidance on practical measures to be taken in strategies and plans in the format of a compendium. The compendium presented during the webinar consists of 20 practical measures to implement the recommendations in recovery plans. Each measure is described, illustrated by, a case study and related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets, with reference to measure-relevant UN agencies, funds and programmes and some guidance materials.

The IBC webinar on Promoting measures to green the post-pandemic recovery focused on 4 main areas of intervention: water management, energy efficiency and renewable energy, sustainable tourism and funding opportunities for green recovery.

Sixteen million people are still lacking access to water in Europe. WASH (inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene) related diseases are still quite prevalent. Hence, a priority for the region is to improve water access and sanitation with practices such as hand hygiene and water safety plans. Tajikistan established a water safety plan that can be regarded as best practice.

© Pixabay – Renewable energy supply

Along with water supply, energy supply is also fundamental to the post pandemic recovery. However, data from the G20 shows that a significant amount of stimulus packages have been dedicated to the energy sector, but only the 38% were invested in green energies. Speakers presented some best practices for an energy transition focusing on increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, support small and medium businesses in the renewable sector and promote low carbon transport.

Another key sector largely affected by the pandemic is tourism. Worldwide, one in ten jobs is in this sector and its crisis has serious consequences on the global economy. Before the pandemic, many efforts to integrate sustainability into tourism were made, but sustainable tourism practices have not been fully included into regional policies and business practices. Tourism can help achieving greener economies and more resilient communities. Speakers suggested nature-based solutions and integrating biodiversity into recovery plans as well as establishing new UNESCO Biosphere Reserves are key measures to unlock the tourism potential to contribute to the green recovery.

As a follow up, the IBC will continue to promote measures for green post-pandemic recovery through various channels and events, including the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (Geneva & online, 17-18 March 2021) where IBC led a peer-learning session on “Partnerships for a sustainable recovery”.