What does the Corona crisis mean for environmental policy?

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The spread of the corona virus also poses new challenges for environmental policy.
Source: Radoslav Zilinsky / Getty Images

The Corona crisis challenges many familiar things. The economy is under pressure, people are changing their habits. What does this mean for environmental policy in the long term? UBA has launched various activities to address this issue. A special "Corona Task Force" has produced initial discussion papers. In addition, the economic perspective of "green recovery" is the focus of other activities.

Even though the consequences of the Corona crisis, as of autumn 2020, are still difficult to predict: It has already triggered quite a few things, including for environmental policy. For example, the temporary lockdown in numerous countries showed that CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced – but only in the short term to an extent that would be necessary in the long term to achieve the climate goals. In cities, the bicycle is gaining new significance and appreciation as a means of mobility, and the distribution of public space between different uses is being discussed anew. The connection between the exploitation of nature and new pathogens becomes visible in its full consequence.

These and other consequences of the Corona crisis show how important environmental policy is even in such a crisis, but also what challenges for environmental policy arise from it – in the course of the economic recovery, for example, instruments that would be harmful to the environment, such as the purchase premium for vehicles with combustion engines, were also discussed in Germany (but so far rejected).

A task force at UBA addressed such issues in the summer of 2020 and presented four position papers as an initial time diagnosis, highlighting various aspects of the significance of the corona crisis for environmental policy:

In German, English version forthcoming:

As a current diagnosis of the current situation, the papers are intended to provide a basis for further discussion on the consequences of the corona crisis for the environment and sustainability. UBA will pursue further activities in this area.

In a synopsis, UBA has also evaluated 130 scientific studies and statements that deal with the design and effectiveness of green economic stimulus programs in the current economic crisis. The analysis shows that there is a broad consensus that green stimulus programs are eminently suitable for boosting the economy and have very high social benefits.

On the role of green stimulus packages for Europe, the European Network of Environment Agencies (EPANetwork) published a position paper: