COVID-19 stimulus packages have negative impact on the Arctic

27 January 2021

Governance Pan-Arctic Oil and gas Communities

Ottawa, Canada – Arctic countries are injecting US$3.5 trillion into COVID-19 fiscal stimulus programs, but little of that money appears to support Arctic communities according to a new study released today by WWF’s Arctic Programme. Left out in the cold: COVID-19 green stimulus and jobs in the Arctic, examines the environmental impacts of Arctic countries’ COVID-19 stimulus packages and finds that they have largely failed to pave the way for sustainable long-term development or green job creation in this vulnerable part of the world.

Dr Peter Winsor, director WWF Arctic Programme said:

“This is a challenging time for our planet. Many people are worried about the risks this pandemic poses for their personal health and economic security. Those risks are even more acute for people living in the Arctic because they are also facing threats from a rapidly changing climate on a daily basis. We hope this report will help governments adapt their COVID-19 stimulus funding to support true sustainable economic development in the Arctic in ways that directly benefit people and nature.”

The report examines the COVID-19 stimulus packages for each of the eight Arctic countries and finds that overall, the stimulus will have a negative environmental impact on the Arctic. For instance, policies that encourage increased investments in oil and gas activities will escalate risks from climate change and cause long-term environmental harm. Sweden is the only country with COVID-19 stimulus that will have a net positive Arctic environmental impact. And their set of measures also has the greatest potential to create green jobs in the region.

But it isn’t all bad news. The report also identifies some best practices for governments to follow to drive lasting, positive change in the Arctic.

Jan Dusik, lead specialist sustainable development, WWF Arctic Programme said:

“COVID-19 recovery programmes offer governments an opportunity to kick start more sustainable development and investments in the Arctic; such resources will not be available again in the years to come. For example, Sweden and Norway supported Saami reindeer herders by easing border and quarantine restrictions. Some countries are restoring wetlands to combat climate change and create green jobs or providing funding to support nature tourism and more sustainable infrastructure.”

The research for Left out in the cold was conducted by Vivid Economics and takes into consideration any programmes implemented or announced before 31 October 2020. Vivid Economics created the Green Stimulus Index, or GSI, an analysis of the “green-ness” of COVID-19 stimulus packages around the world. Through their analysis of stimulus packages announced since April of last year, they have noted patterns and similarities.

Dan Aylward-Mills, head of growth and development, Vivid Economics said:

“What we are seeing in the Arctic is a mirror of what we are seeing around the world when it comes to green stimulus. Governments are putting more money into propping up the industries of the past rather than investing in the jobs of the future. The scale of funding being mobilised gives us a chance to re-write how economies influence our natural environment. As we move from rescue to recovery, we need to take that chance.”

Read the full report.

WWF’s Arctic Programme will present the main findings of this report today at “Make Earth Cool Again” part of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda week. Members of the panel include Jan Dusik, the sustainability lead for WWF’s Arctic Programme, Per Bolund, Sweden’s Minister of Financial Markets & Housing, Dan Aylward-Mills Head of Growth and Development for Vivid Economics and Gunn-Britt Retter, Head of the Arctic and Environment for the Saami Council.

Make Earth Cool Again” is a free online virtual event organized by Arctic Basecamp—a team of Arctic experts and scientists. Hosts Rainn Wilson and Parisa Fitz Henley will lead a series of chats, interviews and skits with scientists, experts and entertainers to highlight the urgency of fighting climate change by supporting low carbon action and education.

For further information:

Leanne Clare | Sr. Manager Communications, Arctic Programme | lclare@wwfcanada.org