Governments need to take charge to meet environmental goals: WEF panel

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SINGAPORE - With the climate crisis looming in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments need to take more proactive commitments in order to ensure the global economy not only recovers but recovers sustainably.

A panel of experts at World Economic Forum's (WEF) Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021, moderated by The Straits Times associate editor Vikram Khanna, spoke on the issue of making sure that economies worldwide are not only recovering from the effects of Covid-19, but also doing so in a way that will help bring the world to a net-zero future.

The online discussion on Monday (Sept 20) saw United Nations Environment Programme executive direction Inger Andersen, Dalmia Bharat managing director Puneet Dalmia and H2GO Power chief executive Enass Abo-Hamed talk about the challenges faced by countries worldwide.

While the first wave of Covid-19 funds injected by the various governments were directly into people's pockets, the second and now third wave of funds should be relooked and have conditions on such funds to help match the position of being environmentally sustainable, said Miss Anderson. This sentiment was echoed by Ms Abo-Hamed, who added that governments "either miss an opportunity... or panic spend. (Governments should ) use public funds in a way that.. contribute to a more economical and sustainable growth".

Mr Dalmia raised the additional point on politics in the the move toward sustainability, saying that "(There is) enough scientific knowledge available now... But this climate change is a political issue and not an environmental issue... when there is a crisis, (the global economy) needs the best possible actions, and we need leadership."

The speakers all agreed on the perspective that the climate crisis will primarily boil down to the actions and policies of governments worldwide - by creating the incentives for investors to pledge their money toward sustainable initiatives, as well as providing the support for banks and financial institutions to help prop up these initiatives.

This, coupled with the appropriate tax and penalties to 'dirty' sectors such as fossil fuels will then help being to fruition an equitable and intergenerationally just future.

The fully virtual WEF SustainableDevelopment Impact Summit 2021 is hosted alongside the United Nations General Assembly, and looks at how the global economy can emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic stronger and more resilient than before.

All of the virtual sessions can be viewed online here.

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