As large parts of the world are gradually becoming habituated to living in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, global attention has turned to restarting the economy. One of the most consequential impacts of these efforts will be that on our climate policies and environmental conditions. With the critical 2020 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow delayed by a year and governments around the world scrambling to avert a recession, decisions and actions taken – and not taken – in the coming months and years risk putting the world on the wrong track for decades and centuries to come.
Early on, widely publicised reports on wildlife returning to locked-down cities offered hope that the pandemic might be a boon for the environment. Climate was supposed to be a beneficiary as well, with the percentage drop in global carbon dioxide emissions touted by some as the largest since World War II and the Great Depression. But to believe that these singular events anticipate long-term trends may turn out to be little more than wishful thinking, “as the drop is a one-off that will probably be quickly erased as economies rebound” (Oroschakoff 2020).
Even before the pandemic was officially declared, the challenge faced by efforts to prioritise climate and the environment was already enormous: “By making it clear how deep and wide the necessary transformation needs to be, they risk triggering a powerful self-preservation pushback from those who benefit from the status quo. They already have. Alternative paths to human well-being within the natural world are already being dismissed as too difficult or outlandish to even contemplate” (Juraszek 2020). Now that governments are in a rush to restart economies, the pushback has not relented; far from it. And the stakes could not be higher.
At the time of writing, the situation is complex, to put it mildly. The US administration has intensified its campaign against environmental protections, the UK – the host of the next UN climate summit – has taken a back seat, and the largest emitter, China, “is sending mixed messages by backing coal power stations as part of its recovery” (Carrington 2020). With the spectre of a new recession looming ever larger on the horizon, and the carefully crafted budgets based on pre-pandemic economic projections now meaningless, there is no guarantee that the trillions of recovery cash being pumped into economies will be “directed toward technologies and sectors that could have an impact on climate change” (Oroschakoff 2020). Ensuring that climate mitigation and adaptation are given due attention is already shaping up to be an uphill battle, as critics are concerned that public money may end up funding dirty projects; indeed, polluters have already been “lobbying hard for bailouts” (Carrington 2020).
The European Union – with its much-hyped Green Deal and environmental credentials – is the only major player on the global stage that seems to be taking climate goals at least half-seriously even as the pandemic and the economy have stolen the limelight. The green recovery package put forward by the European Commission has set a high standard for other nations, “using the rebuilding of coronavirus-ravaged economies to tackle the even greater threat of the climate emergency, in principle at least” (Carrington 2020). These initiatives may well reach far beyond the EU itself, not only by setting an example, but also thanks to a border tax on carbon-intensive imports.
However, it is vital not to be naïve about the price the environment will have to pay for “green” investments. Much of these will be in the renewable energy sector, whose environmental dimension is controversial, to say the least. While preferable to continuing reliance on fossil fuels, “transition to renewables is going to require a dramatic increase in the extraction of metals and rare-earth minerals, with real ecological and social costs” (Hickel 2019). In pursuit of the less-bad option that renewables provide as compared to fossil fuels, it is crucial not to make matters worse by plundering whatever still remains of functioning ecosystems. This is particularly imperative with extractive industries now scouting out resources necessary for building the new energy infrastructure. Currently, an emerging threat to ecosystems is deep sea mining that is bound to have a detrimental impact on wildlife as well as on human food sources. Vulnerable species and populations of marine life as well as commercially-important fish catches such as tuna, already ravaged by overfishing, oil and gas exploration, rising temperatures, ocean acidification, and pollution, could further suffer from toxic leaks released by mining operations, “risking irreversible damage for the many who rely on the ocean for their livelihoods” (Hunt 2020). Whatever supposed benefit deep sea mining may bring, it is outweighed by the cost of further damaging the web of life.
At the same time, the way climate and environmental policies are negotiated, adopted, and enforced needs to be transformed to ensure that genuine results are reached. Paris Agreement may have replaced the ineffectual Kyoto Protocol to much fanfare, but so far it has failed to put us on a trajectory that would prevent climate collapse. And even its insufficient pledges are under threat in the face of the impending economic recession, as policymakers may resort to solutions similar to the ones adopted after the financial crisis just over a decade ago: solutions that arguably only served to temporarily avert disaster while making the underlying tensions and fractures worse and risking an even more serious future crisis. On top of that, measures adopted in the wake of an emergency may overstay their welcome, as has been the case with the American security paradigm after 9/11. Overhauled to fight terrorism, it fundamentally changed domestic and international policy for the worse, with consequences lasting to this day, “from unending warfare to increasing global instability to ever diminishing U.S. influence” (Rosenberg & Hannah 2020). In light of this, William Nordhaus has put forward a new framework for climate agreements that would replace the current flawed model with the “Climate Club”, a different incentive structure within which nations could overcome the syndrome of free-riding in international climate agreements and enforce meaningful penalties for nations that do not participate; otherwise, “the global effort to curb climate change is sure to fail” (Nordhaus 2020). Whether such a club will be formed, let alone deliver on its goals, remains to be seen.
The pandemic has derailed many activities that drive our economic and social life, its short-term consequences damaging but long-term ones potentially life-saving. If the current efforts to restart these activities in their pre-pandemic form succeed, this will only leave us vulnerable to future pandemics and other crises, including environmental ones. We need a new policy regime that would help citizens get accustomed to less physical interaction while remaining fully functional. Social distancing appears to require locking down cities and paralysing the economy only because it hasn’t been properly woven into the fabric of our societies. “If we readapt our economies, we could practice social distancing while keeping our economies alive” (Snower 2020). It is more than just the matter of reducing infection rates. People better able to work and protect themselves in epidemic circumstances will also be more resilient once worsening environmental conditions (from rainstorms to flooding to heatwaves) make venturing outdoors life-threatening on a regular basis.
The pandemic may change the world in ways big and small, and whether we emerge out of it stronger or weaker depends on whether we understand that the worst possible scenario is to try and revive the status quo. Not only would that exacerbate tensions within the global economy and further fracture our societies, but also squander perhaps the very last chance we may have to prepare for what is coming our way. This is what should be on the minds of policymakers, pundits, and citizens as arguments and choices are being made on our common future.
Carrington, D. “EU green recovery package sets a marker for the world”. The Guardian, 28.05.2020. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/28/eu-green-recovery-package-sets-a-marker-for-the-world
Hickel, J. “The Limits of Clean Energy”. Foreign Policy, 6.09.2019. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/06/the-path-to-clean-energy-will-be-very-dirty-climate-change-renewables/
Hunt, L. “NGOs and Scientists Urge Moratorium on Deep Sea Mining in the Pacific”. The Diplomat, 20.05.2020. https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/ngos-and-scientists-urge-moratorium-on-deep-sea-mining-in-the-pacific/
Juraszek, D. “‘Green growth’ may well be more of the same”. Instytut Boyma, 16.01.2020. https://instytutboyma.org/en/green-growth-may-well-be-more-of-the-same/
Nordhaus, W. “The Climate Club. How to Fix a Failing Global Effort”. Foreign Affairs, 10.04.2020. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-04-10/climate-club
Oroschakoff, K. “Coronavirus slashes emissions (for now)”. Politico.eu, 19.05.2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/coronavirus-slashes-emissions-for-now/
Rosenberg, B. & M. Hannah. “After the Coronavirus, Don’t Repeat 9/11’s Mistakes”. Foreign Policy, 29.04.2020. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/29/coronavirus-pandemic-national-security-911-mistakes-trump-administration-immigration-privacy/
Snower, D. “Don’t save the economy. Change the economy”. Politico.eu, 19.05.2020. https://www.politico.eu/article/dont-save-the-economy-change-the-economy-coronavirus-covid19/
Indonesia is the largest Muslim democracy in the world. Approximately 88% of the population in Indonesia declares Islamic religion, but in spite of this significant dominance, Indonesia is not a religious state.Anna Grzywacz
The Chinese Influence Campaign can allegedly play a dangerous role at certain Central European universities, as stated in the article ‘Countering China’s Influence Campaigns at European Universities’, (...) However, the text does ignore Poland, the country with the largest number of universities and students in the region. And we argue, the situation is much more complex.Patrycja Pendrakowska
Book review of "GDR International Development Policy Involvement. Doctrine and Strategies between Illusions and Reality 1960-1990, The example (South) Africa", written by Ulrich van der Heyden and published by Lit Verlag in 2013.Nicolas Levi
Witnessing the recent flurry of political activity amid the accelerating environmental emergency, from the Green New Deal to the UN climate summits to European political initiatives, one could be forgiven for thinking that things are finally moving forward.Dawid Juraszek
Interview with Uki Maroshek-Klarman - Academic Director of the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace in Israel. Founder of "Betzavta" method, which was created with intention of streghtening people's participation in society and making conflicts easier to solve.Patrycja Pendrakowska
Interview on the project Supporting the Economic Empowerment of Afghan Women through Education and Training in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Magdalena Sobańska-Cwalina and Krzysztof M. Zalewski (The Boym Institute) in discussion with: Yakup Beris, Johannes Stenbaek Madsen, Maria Dotsenko, Gulnar Smailova,Zespół Instytutu Boyma
We would like to inform, that Observer Research Foundation has published article of Krzysztof Zalewski - the Boym Institute Analyst, Chairman of the Board and Editor of the “Tydzień w Azji” weekly.Krzysztof Zalewski
Interview of Ewelina Horoszkiewicz with prof. Chiwen Jevons Lee on China on globalization of Chinese business education and his thoughts of China’s role in the global marketplace.Ewelina Horoszkiewicz
On May 24 Dr. Nicolas Levi gave a lecture on Balcerowicz's plan in the context of North Korea. The speech took place as part of the seminar "Analyzing the Possibility of Reform and its Impact on Human Rights in North Korea". The seminar took place on May 24 at the prestigious Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.
Evidence suggests that North Korea stores its high-level nuclear waste (HLW) in liquid form in tanks on the same site where it is made, and has not invested in infrastructure to reduce, dentrify, or vitrify this waste. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, one of many aspects of the North Korean nuclear waste problem.Nicolas Levi
Book review of "Unveiling the North Korean economy", written by Kim Byung-yeon and published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.B. Tauris in 2017.Nicolas Levi
The 1950 Indian Constitution introduced the principle of equal opportunities for gender equality, which grants women and men the same rights in family life, political, social and economic life. So why is it that nearly forty per cent of girls aged 15-17 do not attend school, the custom of dowry giving is still cultivated and prenatal sex selection is still a huge social problem?Magdalena Rybczyńska
Book review of "North Korea’s Cities", written by Rainer Dormels and published byJimoondang Publishing Company in 2014.Nicolas Levi
Polish women do not often become the heroines of media reports in Central Asia. In February 2020, however, it was different. The story of Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska, a journalist, "heated up" the headlines of local news portals. More importantly, "between the lines" she talked a lot about contemporary Uzbekistan and the role of women in politics.Magdalena Sobańska-Cwalina
North Korea is considered as a secretive state, but, paradoxically, the country is developing last trend technologies. With prohibitions restricting the flow of money, the country is turning to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to finance their programs, instead of coming under new pressure.Nicolas Levi
Interview with Nandan Unnikrishnan, who has served for many years as a correspondent for Indian media in Russia. Currently he is a research fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi. The interview was conducted during the Raisina Dialogue 2019 in Delhi.Krzysztof Zalewski
We would like to inform, that Financial Intelligence has published interview for Balkan Development Support with Patrycja Pendrakowska.
A short note and photo gallery from the chairman of the Board of the Boym Institute, who stays in Rwanda at the "Kigali Global Dialogue" conference.
Ewelina Horoszkiewicz in conversation with Professor William Yu (UCLA) on USA, China and Europe. Professor William Yu is an economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast and specializes in the economies of Los Angeles and China.Ewelina Horoszkiewicz
On the initiative of the Vietnamese community in Poland and Vietnamese graduates of Polish universities, our country received support from Vietnam - a country that deals with the threat posed by Sars-Cov-2 very effectively.Grażyna Szymańska-Matusiewicz
The scale of assistance provided to medics by the Vietnamese community during the 2020 pandemic inspires admiration and gratitude. It stems from the sense of belonging to Poland and deeply rooted in the culture order to help those in need and repay the debt incurred at the time when they themselves needed such help.Ewa Grabowska
Book review of "North Korean Defectors in a New and Competitive Society", written by Lee Ahlam - assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Human Resource Development at Xavier University Cincinnati, Ohio.Nicolas Levi
Thanks to continuous economic development, Vietnam attracts a record number of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The catalyst for such a strong growth of FDI in Vietnam is not only the ongoing trade war between the US and China, but also new international agreements.Jakub Królczyk
This paper deals with the issue of drug business in post-Soviet Central Asia, a region that plays a key role in the trafficking of banned substances from Asia (mainly Afghanistan) to Europe. The study briefly presents the areas that make up the picture of drug business in Central Asia, paying attention to production and distribution.Jerzy Olędzki