Green Jobs for a Resilient Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery

Video | 14 April 2021

Post COVID-19 recovery investments need to contribute to the long-term objectives of addressing climate change and promote an economic model that works for both people and the planet, explains ADB’s Preety Bhandari.

The Asia and Pacific region is at extreme risk of undoing its economic and social development gains due to unchecked disasters and unabated climate change.


Question: Can economic recovery from COVID-19 help us move toward a green and resilient economic model?

Preety Bhandari: I would say the question needs to be recharacterized. It is not “How can the economic recovery be green, resilient, and inclusive?” but “How should it be?” because there is no option at this point in time.

We do not have the luxury of time, nor that scale of financing that is needed to meet different crises with discreet openings and packages. We have to find investment opportunities that subserve multiple outcomes and allow us to meet the recovery targets, the economic goals of our countries, but also the long-term aspirations on how to address climate change – both mitigating it and adapting to different climate impacts.

Question: What does a green and resilient recovery actually mean for livelihoods and the broader economy in Asia and the Pacific?

Preety Bhandari: Let me give you some examples. For instance, the immediate objectives of economic recovery is creating jobs, creating you know, new skills, and getting the small businesses back in action. So, if we were to look at these objectives and see which are the opportunities that would also allow us to move towards the greener, low-carbon pathway, the immediate answers are related to renewable energy technologies and investment renewable energy. They relate to opportunities in energy efficiency in our buildings, or also opportunities related to nature-based solutions.

For instance, restoring of forestlands. And let me give you some statistics over here. One million invested in renewable energy would generate, according to an estimate, about 7.5 full-time equivalent jobs. Whereas that 1 million invested in fossil fuels would generate just about 2.5 jobs. So, you can see the immediate difference in the short term if we were to invest in renewable energy, we would be generating more jobs as compared to investing in fossil fuel power generation. The other example is restoring of forestlands which are you know, forests are a good source of absorbing carbon dioxide,

So if we restore forestland or if we restore mangroves, again, a number that I would like to quote from the US about 150,000 jobs per year could be generated just by restoring forestland in the US. Similar modelling and exercise have been undertaken in Indonesia in its low carbon initiative, which shows that Indonesia can maintain a 6% per annum annual growth while investing in opportunities related to renewable energy while maintaining their forestlands. And also, you know these interventions and investments could create significant number of jobs.

So, the idea is that we look at the immediate short term for the recovery investments from the pandemic and marry with them the opportunities that are there for investing in greener energy for you know, investing in forestry, for investing in energy efficiency. And that would also ensure that this short-term recovery investments are contributing to the long-term objectives of addressing climate change. So, there is a confluence in the objectives through such green and resilient investments.

Question: Is it possible to characterize some of the unintended impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as positive?

Preety Bhandari: The immediate answer to that is of course, you know, what we have experienced from the pandemic, the complete change in lifestyles and you know, the cleaner air that we are breathing. So, that is in terms of the environmental outcomes. 

In terms of the social outcomes, the kind of social development outcomes that we have been traditionally investing in to enable the poor to you know, deal with various crises. If we can give them some decent jobs, again, I go back to nature-based solutions – protecting of forests, managing of forests, or protecting our coastlines, which are not only productive from the point of view of creating jobs, but also give us satisfaction in terms of you know, the cleaner and healthier environments that we would be living in.

So, we have to look at livelihoods from the perspective of course of the poor, but also in terms of what sense of accomplishment it gives them for a larger cause that all of us you know, all humanity is dealing with.