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Despite the mounting pressure for economic rescue packages to be used to tackle climate change, most of the money spent so far on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic has gone towards propping up businesses, according to three studies.

But what comes next might be more important for the climate, as governments start planning for a post COVID-19 recovery.

The pandemic has already prompted the United States, China and others to commit trillions in stimulus funds, with further injections expected within 18 months.

To climate advocates, these packages represent a chance to shift the world onto a low-carbon path by backing projects – such as renewables and electric vehicles – to reduce carbon emissions.

In the initial response, governments focused on blunting the impact of the pandemic, which sent billions of people into lockdown and endangered the earnings of nearly half the global workforce, according to the International Labour Organisation.

That meant funnelling large amounts of money into high-polluting mainstays of the pre-pandemic economy.

The Group of 20 (G20) countries have so far committed at least US$151 billion (S$210 billion) to supporting fossil fuel-heavy sectors, such as airlines, according to an Energy Policy Tracker database launched by a group of research institutes and campaigners.

By contrast, US$89 billion had been committed to green energy, the database showed.

In a separate study, consultancy Vivid Economics found that stimulus packages across 17 significant economies will pump about US$3.5 trillion into sectors that have big impacts on nature, but largely fail to use the money to protect the environment.

Advocates of “green recoveries” are now lobbying governments to pivot, encouraged by early support for some climate-friendlier stimulus in Germany, France and South Korea, and US states such as New York and California.

Europe has emerged as the leader in green recovery policies. European Union states have so far devoted 0.31% of the bloc’s gross domestic product (GDP) to green spending, relative to an average of 0.01% of GDP in Asia and North America, according to a third study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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Source: The Straits Times, 19 July 2020