Ecologic Institute Newsletter No 213 – May 2020
- Europe's Recovery Plans Must Pass Five Sustainability Tests – Publication
- Money Doesn't Make You Happy – Publication
- Slowing Down Climate Action Because of the Corona Crisis? – Publication
- The EU Farm to Fork Strategy: What needs to come next? – Publication
- Towards an Ambitious Environmental Policy in Germany and Europe – Discussion
- (Single-use) Plastics Remain a Challenge Despite and Especially because of the Pandemic!
- Fostering a Green Recovery through Nature-based Solutions
- Tackling Climate Change: Give Cities a Voice – Publication
- Response to the Corona Virus Pandemic 2019-2021 – Publication
- SPRINT Project Looks to Speed Pesticide Transition
- Impact of the Pandemic on Resource Policy
- Wildlife Crime – Also a threat to human health
- Lessons from the 2009 Economic Stimulus Programs – Analyses by Ecologic Institute
- Think Sustainable Europe: New think tank network launched – News
- Introducing our New Senior Policy Advisors – News
To shape the future, we must learn from the past and present. This is the challenge facing societies around the globe today.
The global pandemic has shown how painful it can be to disregard warnings from scientists. It also demonstrates the lack of resilience in our highly complex world, despite all the technological advances.
Now is the time to act quickly and prudently while taking into account the numerous, often disparate, interests and goals. Aid must be provided for those in need. With a view to far-reaching and long-term measures and developments, we as a society must show new courage and determination as we deal with the fundamental risks of our time. This applies both to those risks that manifest suddenly, like the global pandemic, as well as to slow onset risks, such as climate change or the loss of biodiversity. Our goal should be resilience: not as a defense of the status quo, but as a compass towards a better future.
Our collective experience during the current crisis can be an incentive to commit ourselves even more strongly to the precautionary principle and to ensure that scientific findings are resoundingly heard. The past weeks have shown how much change is possible within a short span of time, provided there is a common perception of threat. This experience can provide us with insights, hope and energy to counter other crises and align our actions and economies with the planetary boundaries.
In 2019, the pressure to act on environment became clearer than ever before. This was evident in the advancement of global warming and the mass decline in insect populations, at the Fridays for Future demonstrations as well as the World Economic Forum in Davos. The pandemic has not changed this situation. Politicians must adjust the framework conditions accordingly. This is where the approach of the European Green Deal is promising. What has changed is that economic stimulus packages – which will shape the next years and decades – are now being finalized at full speed. It is essential that these are designed to help pave the way for a brighter future.
"Build back better": this oft-quoted phrase is a call to seize the opportunity offered by the crisis to build a better future. This is a task for society as a whole – including science. It is up to science to strengthen the knowledge base, and identify and evaluate options for transforming our societies. At the same time, those existing findings that remain applicable or have become relevant again should be brought to bear. Here, we would like to make a contribution.
In this special newsletter, we outline topics that are particularly relevant in times of Covid-19. We highlight selected findings from the past, e.g. on the economic stimulus packages of 2009, refer to recent publications and present a new project on crisis resilience using the case of food systems.
We wish you stimulating reading and the best of health.
Dr. Camilla Bausch, Director, Ecologic Institute
Faced with the COVID-19 crisis, there is great temptation for recovery plans to prop up yesterday's economy. Instead, recovery plans and any economic stimulus must "build back better" and contribute to a resilient and sustainable future. In an EURACTIV op-ed, the directors of five leading think tanks and founders of the new Think Sustainable Europe network argue that any stimulus must be informed by science, strengthen resilience as well as solidarity, support the transformation towards low-carbon, sustainable societies and deal with the current challenges on an appropriate scale.
What do environmentally friendly economic stimulus programs look like? In the Tagesspiegel, Dr. Nils Meyer-Ohlendorf takes stock of the stimulus packages adopted during the 2009 financial crisis. Stimulus packages should clearly exclude measures that harm the environment.
To combat the Corona Crisis, states are pushing their limits. Dr. Nils Meyer-Ohlendorf argues in the Tagesspiegel that this should not happen in climate policy. There is no "what-ever-it-takes-response" to stop the advanced climate crisis but only swift and continuous action now.
On 20 May 2020, the European Commission launched its long-awaited Farm to Fork Strategy. The strategy is a first attempt to define long-term objectives for a healthy, just and sustainable EU food system that addresses both food production and consumption. The strategy is part of the EU Green Deal and was published against the background of the Corona crisis that has critically highlighted the dependence of the EU food system on global supply chains and the need to increase resilience against shocks – be it a pandemic or other crises such as climate change. To achieve the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F) it is now crucial, that its targets will be ambitiously implemented. The Ecologic Institute's initial assessment "The EU Farm to Fork Strategy: What needs to come next?" highlights five important steps for an ambitious implementation of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy – on EU, national and regional level.
The current global pandemic presents both risks and opportunities for the transition to a more sustainable future in Europe. At the launch event for the newest report of the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU), Dr. Camilla Bausch discussed the importance of the European Green Deal at this moment of crisis with Prof. Dr. Christian Calliess.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the issue of plastic waste was a hot topic and public pressure on policy makers to reduce levels of plastic in the environment was high. But now, sales of disposable products such as plastic gloves and masks are on the up. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the benefits of (disposable) plastics in the healthcare industry are obvious. However, it is crucial that these products are disposed of correctly and do not end up on sidewalks and doorways, as can now often be observed.
The importance of urban green areas has gained increasing attention in recent weeks, providing a welcome refuge to many city dwellers in light of COVID19-induced lockdowns. For those without private gardens, natural areas such as parks, urban forests or riverbanks offer critical opportunities for relaxing and physical activity. These and the wider mental and physical health benefits generated from spending time in publicly accessible natural areas are well documented, but have won new importance in this crisis. However, urban nature is more than just the city's parks and squares.
The mayor of London oversees decisions regarding energy, transport and housing for the city's nearly 9 million inhabitants, more than the total population of Austria. At the same time, local governments have little influence on short- and long-term climate policies taken at national and supranational levels. As the role of global cities is subject to a severe test by the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for an urgent and coherent management of the emergency in urban realities places further emphasis on the quest for sustainable urbanisation processes and strategies worldwide. Ewa Iwaszuk provides a commentary on the contribution of global cities to meeting the SDG13: "taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts" within the ISPI Dossier "Global Cities in the Age of Covid-19: Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development".
The global community of think tank leaders is coming together for assistance and learning during the corona virus pandemic. R. Andreas Kraemer, Founder of Ecologic Institute, summarizes operational experience and focuses on the changing agenda for think tanks in these times of corona. The blog entry is part of a growing collection curated by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the University of Pennsylvania.
The Farm to Fork Strategy, launched on 20 May 2020, aims to improve the sustainability of EU food and farming systems, thus increasing their resilience to crises such as Covid-19. A key element of the strategy are quantified EU pesticide reduction targets: reducing the overall use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% and the use of more hazardous pesticides by 50% by 2030. The next few years will be crucial for turning these targets into practical action. SPRINT, a 'Horizon 2020 project' starting in September 2020, will contribute to achieving these targets. As part of the SPRINT consortium, Ecologic Institute will be coordinating the work to develop transition pathways towards more sustainable plant protection and sustainability in EU agriculture.
The effects of the Corona crisis have massively changed the everyday life of citizens since February/March 2020. It is to be expected that this crisis and the associated drastic changes in everyday life will have a strong impact on perceptions, attitudes and patterns of interpretation of current political and social challenges. In the "Trend Radar" project, trends and opportunities for resource conservation relevant to the use of natural resources were intensively reflected in early summer 2019 in a qualitative-empirical online community with more than 100 participants from all social groups.
According to Chinese authorities, the coronavirus spread to humans from wildlife at a wildlife market in Wuhan. Most likely, Ebola and AIDS also originated from wildlife. Beside the serious threats to biodiversity and sustainable development, the risk for human health is thus an additional reason to strengthen the efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and other forms of wildlife crime. Over the last years, Ecologic Institute has published several studies on environmental compliance and crime related to wildlife crime. The most comprehensive study on wildlife crime was presented to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) of the European Parliament in Brussels in April 2016.
In 2009, many countries adopted economic stimulus programs to combat the economic crisis. The United Nations estimated that these programs totaled three trillion Dollar. The Ecologic Institute analyzed the environmental impact of the economic stimulus programs in Germany, France, Great Britain, Austria, Slovenia, the USA, China, Japan, South Korea and the measures taken by the EU. In 2020, the world is facing another deep economic crisis. The discussion about stimulus programs have begun and must draw lessons from 2009.
Facing fundamental challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss, Europe needs to accelerate the speed and ambition of action and policies. These policies and measures require scientific support. To this end, leading sustainability think tanks joined together to form Think Sustainable Europe, a network dedicated to providing policymakers across the continent with sound analysis and recommendations.
Ecologic Institute has the pleasure of introducing our three newest Senior Policy Advisors. These exemplary individuals bring with them a wealth of national and international expertise as well as a prominent and diverse portfolio of experience. We are delighted to have them onboard to strengthen our work and thinking in relation to research with impact and innovative education.
Publisher: Ecologic Institute, Pfalzburger Str. 43/44, 10717 Berlin
Person in charge: Dr. Camilla Bausch, Ecologic Institut, Pfalzburger Str. 43/44, 10717 Berlin