There is much to applaud in the global response to COVID-19: the hundreds of billions of dollars to reinforce healthcare systems and fund research that developed in record time not one, but several vaccines; the synchronized action of central banks and governments to prevent a full-blown global financial crisis; and the debt relief extended to low-income countries. Those were the right measures taken at the right time—and they helped the world avoid a second Great Depression.
But as vaccination campaigns advance and economies move on the path to recovery, governments need to rethink the blanket support extended to individuals and businesses during the first phase of the pandemic. Millions of jobs have been destroyed by COVID-19. Many of these may be gone for good. Automation in manufacturing and logistics, and fast-moving digitalization across the board, could destroy even more jobs in the near future.
There is a chance now to direct the next round of fiscal stimulus to address our other looming crisis — our changing climate, that is also putting future growth and prosperity at risk. For many countries, it is a greater threat than COVID-19 and one that will not go away with a vaccine. Climate change threatens global stability by increasing the risk of conflict over scarce resources, especially water; or by driving migration when crops fail; or by allowing diseases to spread from tropical to temperate zones as global temperatures rise.