Resilience & Recovery

Striving for a green recovery

A green recovery could accelerate GDP growth in the immediate future, establish new industries and jobs for the coming decade, and deliver a sustainable climate for the next century. A green recovery can lead to stronger net zero pathways by accelerating the energy transition, reducing energy consumption through improved efficiency, building natural capital, retraining workers for emerging green industries, and promoting innovation in infant green technologies.

While some countries, like Germany and France, have made some progress towards a green recovery, there is still a significant amount of recovery spending yet to be committed, and hence a significant opportunity to support climate progress.

For more information on how countries are promoting a green recovery from COVID-19, check out the Smith School’s Global Recovery Observatory and Oxford’s student-led movement, Green Recovery Now.

“With this restart [from COVID-19], a window of hope and opportunity opens… an opportunity for nations to green their recovery packages and shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, safe and more resilient.” — Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary

Key Challenges

Green recovery faces both fiscal and political economy challenges. With mounting government deficits in much of the developed world, governments must be convinced of the economic attributes of significant fiscal expansion. Assuming governments will spend to boost the economic recovery, they must be convinced to direct this spending towards green projects. In countries like Australia, Poland, and India, economic reliance on fossil fuels means that green spending is potentially politically unpopular. If governments begin to recognise the opportunity to build a comparative advantage in emerging green markets, such as hydrogen, then a race to the top could create a shift in political attitudes. However, challenges remain in catalysing such a race through effective policy. 

A picture of wheat fields in Ukraine.

Image showing flooded suburb in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Photo Credit: Lieut. Commander Mark Moran, NOAA Corps, NMAO/AOC

Net Zero Innovations in Resilience and Recovery

Building clean energy infrastructure

Investing in clean energy will accelerate the energy transition, allowing the energy mix to shift away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energy sources like water, wind, and solar. Clean energy is also more labour intensive than fossil fuel energy, meaning more jobs, but also higher quality jobs. And more jobs mean a higher economic multiplier, along with a stronger economic recovery. 

Installing energy-efficient retrofits

Improving energy efficiency, for example by retrofitting building insulation, promoting efficient appliances, and introducing smart home technology, can effectively reduce energy consumption. This means less wasted energy and lower carbon emissions. These projects can also boost a strong recovery – they are fast acting and often have comparatively low training requirements, meaning people can quickly find a job and start contributing to the economy. 

Developing natural capital

As well as bringing clear environmental benefits, from protecting green spaces to the carbon capture abilities of afforestation, investment into natural capital can contribute to an economic recovery. A backlog of ecological projects and low training requirements mean that investments quickly translate into economic gains. Spending on these projects are also rural by nature, spreading stimulus from towns to the countryside and alleviating regional disparities in distribution. 

Emerging green hydrogen and ammonia technologies

Green hydrogen has already seen promising levels of green recovery investment from countries like France (USD2.4bn by 2022), Germany (USD10.7bn by 2030), and Korea (USD0.5bn by 2021). And rightly so. Green hydrogen and ammonia technologies can be used across industry, energy, and transport, reducing carbon emissions in ways as varied as powering cars and planes to providing long-term energy storage and transport. A green recovery can support this sector by investing in RD&D, while creating opportunities for long-term, sustained, and sustainable growth. 

Carbon capture, Utilisation, and Storage

Key to net zero transition plans, carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS), will allow economies to continue emitting carbon dioxide in sectors like aviation and industry, where reaching absolute zero remains challenging. Yet, the technology is still in its infancy. Well-targeted stimulus to promising CCUS innovations can accelerate its development and has the potential to create green markets if used alongside a carbon capture incentive and trading scheme. These technologies also have the potential to be retrofitted onto existing infrastructure, protecting, and creating jobs in high carbon industries, promoting a just transition. 

Net Zero Policy Solutions

Worker retraining programs

If governments do invest heavily in green stimulus, it is important that the labour market is able to keep up with an expected growth in green projects. Green worker retraining programs can provide labour for fast-acting stimulus, like natural capital investments and energy-efficiency retrofitting, in the short-term, while training workers for a green transition as emerging technologies develop. Green projects are more labour intensive and provide higher quality jobs, but these benefits will not be realised without the labour market adjustments that worker retraining can bring, while also supporting a just transition. 

Promoting green finance

To leverage private finance, governments should enact legislation that sends market signals about directing funds towards green projects. An example of this is to create a National Investment Bank, that provides finance for private green projects, encouraging innovation and competition in green technologies and infrastructure. Similarly, contracts for differences have, in the past, provided stability for green energy infrastructure to risk-averse investors. The development of finance initiatives aimed at green projects can similarly leverage a wealth of private saving. 

International cooperation

Global initiatives, such as the Conference of Parties, emphasise the truly global nature of the climate crisis. Coronavirus and the economic recession are similar to the climate crisis in this way (Klenert et al., 2020). International cooperation, whether bilateral or multilateral, can promote the sharing of best practices in green stimulus, leverage finance across borders, especially on international infrastructure projects like smart grids, and lead to cooperative competition as economies seek to innovate and maximise their long term economic gains. 

Other research themes

greenhouse gas removal

There are various types of Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) technologies which recapture already emitted greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and ocean.

Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) involve working with and enhancing nature to achieve multiple benefits for people, including removing CO2 from the air, and aiding adaptation  to climate change.

Equity And Inclusion

Pathways to achieving global net zero emissions must be framed by questions of equity and justice. A just transition to a net zero future needs to be inclusive of a range of actors as well as a range of views, including those relating climate justice.

News and Events

New ONZ report on Net Zero Commitments by Businesses in Africa
New ONZ report on Net Zero Commitments by Businesses in Africa

ONZ fellow Dr Jessica Omukuti has undertaken a stocktake study on net zero commitments by Africa’s largest publicly listed companies. For the report, the team gathered data on the emission targets of Africa’s 250 largest publicly listed ... Read more

ONZ contributes to new global guidelines for clarity on net zero action at COP27
ONZ contributes to new global guidelines for clarity on net zero action at COP27

The ISO publishes the Net Zero Guidelines to support all actors and organisations to reach their net zero goals, with expert contribution from Oxford Net Zero. Read more

New HLEG report provides clear guidance on Net Zero for cities, regions and corporations
New HLEG report provides clear guidance on Net Zero for cities, regions and corporations

New UN HLEG report provides clear guidance on Net Zero for cities, regions and corporations. Read more

Oxford Net Zero at COP27
Oxford Net Zero at COP27

Lovely to meet you at COP27! We are here representing Oxford Net Zero, an interdisciplinary research group at the University of Oxford. Our group is made up of anthropologists, geophysicists, biologists, lawyers, political scientists and more. ... Read more

The Science, Origins and Implications of Net Zero – new research paper
The Science, Origins and Implications of Net Zero – new research paper

A new research paper by Myles Allen and colleagues explains the science behind the drive for global net zero emissions and why this is needed to halt the ongoing rise in global temperatures. Read more

Oxford Net Zero publishes report on the Voluntary Net Zero Initiatives Landscape
Oxford Net Zero publishes report on the Voluntary Net Zero Initiatives Landscape

Oxford Net Zero researchers have produced a report of 33 voluntarz initiatives across the governance landscape to identify areas of convergence and divergence in terms of guidance offered to corporate actors. Read more

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