Left out in the cold: COVID-19 green stimulus and jobs in the Arctic
People who live in the Arctic are facing a rapidly changing climate and global pandemic—a dual threat that is putting their personal health and economic security at risk. Arctic countries are injecting a total of US$3.5 trillion into COVID-19 fiscal stimulus programs, but little of that money appears destined to support communities in this vulnerable region.
The COVID-19 recovery packages announced to date have also largely failed to pave the way for sustainable long-term development or green job creation in the Arctic. However, when comparing policies across countries, some best practices emerge—and there are still huge, untapped opportunities for COVID-19 stimulus funding to drive lasting change in the Arctic.
WWF hopes that by highlighting best practices, governments will adapt their next COVID-19 stimulus funding to support sustainable economic development in the Arctic. It is vital that any future development promotes a healthy, biodiverse Arctic that benefits all life in the region.
Overall, Arctic countries’ current COVID-19 stimulus packages will have a negative environmental impact on the region. For instance, policies that encourage more investment in oil and gas activities will escalate risks from climate change and cause long-term environmental harm. Therefore, WWF recommends Arctic governments to:
- Include dedicated funding for Arctic investment in their national environmental protection measures to create lasting impact. Although some countries’ packages will have positive impacts nationally, very few national policies will have effects that trickle up to the Arctic in meaningful ways. Countries should also develop or adapt national initiatives to address the unique environmental challenges facing the Arctic.
- Incentivize green technologies and infrastructure in their rescue and bailout packages. Few have harnessed the opportunity to include capitalization of cash-flow injections and investments with green conditions in industry bailouts and financial incentives to steer recoveries toward a sustainable path. Prioritizing investments in renewable technologies, energy efficiency and decarbonization would support sustainable long-term growth and create short- and longer-term green jobs.
- Invest in sustainable jobs by attaching green strings to bailouts and investing in green infrastructure across all sectors. Investments in industry transitions, nature-based solutions, green infrastructure and renewable technologies have the potential to create as many as 20 green jobs for every US$1 million invested. For example, renewable energy investments produce nearly 70 per cent more jobs per dollar than investments in fossil fuels.
- Use their COVID-19 recovery spending to fund and implement national Arctic strategies, with a focus on environmental protection measures and creating green jobs in the Arctic. Many countries’ Arctic strategies highlight environmental protection as a priority, but do not follow up with funding for environmental protection measures or details on how to implement them.
Why it matters
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.
Jan Dusik, Lead specialist, sustainable development, WWF Arctic Programme
Green Stimulus in the Arctic
Almost all Arctic countries’ stimulus packages will have a negative environmental impact on the Arctic—and in all countries, the packages’ net environmental impacts will be more negative in the Arctic than on a national level. This is mostly due to increased spending on fossil fuels at the expense of green initiatives that target or could benefit the Arctic.
Sweden is the only country with positive GSI scores in the Arctic and nationally. In contrast, while Finland’s stimulus measures have a positive environmental impact on a national level, its most significant green policies have no impact on the Arctic. This is also the case for Canada and Norway. No Russian or US policies have a positive impact on the Arctic region: both countries are subsidizing the oil and gas industry, engaging in environmental deregulation, and introducing policies to encourage drilling, exploration and extraction in the Arctic. As a country located entirely within the Arctic, all of Iceland’s stimulus measures are considered Arctic, but its stimulus package contains few green measures.
Sweden’s stimulus packages will have a positive net environmental impact, both in the Arctic and nationally, because it is implementing many bestpractice policies.
The COVID-19 stimulus packages announced by Norway, Sweden and Canada include direct financial aid for Indigenous Peoples and their economies, primarily through support for reindeer herding and general business. In Finland, Russia and the United States, similar support was either not provided or is a contentious issue.
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.
There are probably very few people on our planet who haven’t been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic—and it’s still not clear what the environmental, social, political, economic and health impacts will be in the months and years to come. While the world rushes to develop a vaccine, people everywhere are making efforts to strengthen their resilience and limit the effects of this novel, deadly virus.