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Project Syndicate

Project Syndicate

Autumn 2020: The Green Recovery

After years of growing suspicion toward the latest wave of digital technologies and the companies and governments that control them, Beyond the Techlash brings together economists, technologists, policymakers, and business leaders to consider how the lost promise of twenty-first-century innovation can be reclaimed.

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Country:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
Project Syndicate
Frequency:
Quarterly
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in this issue

3 min.
board member’s note

A DECADE AGO, THE WORLD WAS debating how to respond to that emergency and its knock-on effects in Europe and around the world. Five years ago, the global economy seemed to be on a sounder footing, and the international community adopted comprehensive roadmaps – especially the Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris climate agreement – for tackling shared problems. Now, we are faced with a test: either the current crisis will paralyze us, or it will induce us to redouble our efforts to build a more sustainable future. One thing is certain: the urgency that drove progress in 2015 has not diminished. In the past two years alone, we have learned that plant and animal species are approaching extinction at a much faster rate than was previously assumed. We have been…

5 min.
how to recover green

THAT WAS CLEARLY A FANTASY. Months after the initial lockdown period, the United States and many other countries were still reaching new highs in terms of both infections and COVID-19 deaths. And the pandemic had exposed – and probably exacerbated – deep problems plaguing the economy well before the crisis began. For example, the US economy generated massive inequalities not only in income and wealth but also in health outcomes and access to care. And because these disparities closely track those of race in America, already marginalized populations were left even more vulnerable to the virus. Governments, meanwhile, have intervened on an unprecedented scale. With such massive levels of public spending, citizens have every right to demand that the post-crisis economy be shaped in accordance with their own interests, not those…

6 min.
the need for a great transformation

WORSE, THESE ECOLOGICAL IMBALANCES are further compounded by economic imbalances. The overproduction of oil, steel, diamonds, and cocoa (to list just a few examples) is at odds with declining global purchasing power, which is driving a trend toward “underconsumption” (as first defined by the economist John A. Hobson in his 1902 book, Imperialism). Moreover, persistent imbalances between countries with large current-account surpluses and deficits create international tension, leading to protectionism and trade wars. Even before COVID-19, capital-account imbalances had rendered many countries vulnerable to capital flight or sudden stops. Global financial imbalances are of the greatest concern. The generation of boundless private and public credit has eclipsed the global income needed to pay down debt. Reckless lending to “special purpose acquisition companies” that borrow to finance spurious “undertakings which shall in…

5 min.
will we listen to the scientists?

OWING TO THE URGENT NEED FOR sound information about the virus, science journals have accelerated the process for publishing peer-reviewed research. And some top journals, including Nature, have been wading through new findings and summarizing the current scientific knowledge about the virus for use by policymakers. By disseminating new evidence as quickly as possible, the global scientific ecosystem has helped to slow the spread of the disease and save lives. Now, all eyes are on research to develop new treatments and vaccines. These developments raise important questions for our engagement with other issues, not least climate change. Are rapidly changing publishing standards and streamlined peer-review processes something to worry about, given that they could increase the likelihood of bad science being published? Will politicians, corporations, and others misuse or abuse preliminary…

8 min.
china’s inevitable low-carbon future

YET AS EXTRAORDINARY AS THIS COMMITMENT may seem to outsiders, it is no surprise to those in China climate-policy circles. Quietly, government and industry leaders have been discussing carbon neutrality idea in earnest. As recently as January of this year, a group of senior Chinese officials and executives representing 28 influential industry associations gathered at an energy-investment conference in Beijing, where they produced a proclamation titled “Zero-Carbon China.” With a novel coronavirus beginning to spread and claim a rapidly growing number of lives, the event went largely unnoticed. But that doesn’t change China’s low-carbon trajectory. For many of China’s leaders, the idea of acting more aggressively to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is no longer controversial. On the contrary, they are increasingly recognizing that such action aligns seamlessly with their goal of a…

5 min.
the promise of decarbonization

THE IDEA THAT “MORE” CAN LEAD to “less” would seem counterintuitive to the 1.6 billion people who may have lost their livelihoods as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet it is the obsession with returning to “normal” that should be viewed most skeptically. The system that brought us to this point was highly abnormal by any reasonable standard. It has been undermining our health, exhausting our natural resources, destroying plant and animal species, and heating up the planet, all to benefit a shrinking minority at the expense of everyone else. This deeply unbalanced system has now brought us close to the breaking point, after years of grappling with climate change, biodiversity loss, rising inequality, and other escalating crises. It should come as no surprise that these problems have all converged…