Coronavirus relief plans in most nations, including the U.S., fail to consider the environment

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — For all of the negativity, tragedy, and awfulness COVID-19 has brought, the pandemic has also provided an opportunity for the global economy to “reset” and institute policies and practices that can potentially reverse decades of damage done to the environment and species losses. Unfortunately, a study from Rutgers University finds the vast majority of the global community has failed to take advantage of the pandemic from an environmental perspective.

Instead, some nations (the United States, Brazil, and Australia) are actually heading in the wrong direction. Researchers say these nations are undoing or relaxing pre-existing laws, policies, and initiatives intended to protect the planet.

“Just last week at the United Nations, more than 60 heads of state spoke at a virtual summit and pledged their support to tackle the biodiversity crisis. But when we look at what countries are doing, either in their prior budget and policies or especially in their post-COVID planning and recovery packages, very few governments are putting their money where their mouths are,” says lead author Pamela McElwee in a university release.

“We still see huge amounts of financial support for harmful practices, such as subsidizing overfishing or fossil fuel production or building infrastructure that will harm ecological integrity. Only a small number of countries are addressing the biodiversity crisis in the serious manner it deserves.”

Global effort to clean up the planet

Environmental scientists, economists, and anthropologists from all over the world contributed to this work. They explored all of the global economic changes that must take place to stop damaging our planet. Subjects discussed include employment programs, fiscal policies, regulations, and incentives.

Moreover, according to an earlier environmental report put together by the same authors, roughly one million animal species will face extinction over the next few decades if changes aren’t made. That earlier report states “already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.”

What should governments be doing in the midst of the pandemic for the environment? Researchers recommend moving away from fossil fuels would make a huge difference. Besides that, carbon taxes can help protect forests and trees. The creation of new programs that also focus on green infrastructure and ecological recovery would help the process as well.

Nature needs a stimulus check during coronavirus pandemic too

Over the past few months many politicians and scientists have stressed the need for a low-carbon coronavirus recovery, but the study’s authors say that just isn’t going to be enough. They add biodiversity and different ecosystems must be part of future economic plans. Similarly, while actions such as closing wildlife markets, expanding protected natural areas, and diminishing tropical deforestation are helpful, these measures fail to solve the root problems causing these environmental issues.

As of today, both the United States and China have devoted virtually no stimulus funding toward biodiversity or ecosystems.

“Governments are falling short of their stated promises and they need to do more – immediately,” McElwee concludes. “We will continue to monitor proposed recovery packages, stimulus measures and financial pledges for how they address the biodiversity crises going forward, particularly in light of the mega-summit on biodiversity to be held in China next May.”

The study is published in One Earth.

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