Plan calls for sustainability goals to drive COVID-19 stimulus

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Leading sustainability and fair trade organisations have outlined a plan for regional and global recovery from the COVID-19 crisis aimed at reducing inequalities and building a more resilient economic future.

The five-point plan has been jointly issued by Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, the Global Compact Network Australia and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Australia, New Zealand & Pacific.

The plan was developed in response to a Forum on Globalisation and Economic Recovery Post COVID, co-hosted by these organisations with keynote speaker Jeffrey D Sachs, President of SDSN.

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The CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, Molly Harriss Olson, said “COVID-19 has threatened to erode 30 years of progress and push an estimated 580 million people into poverty. By aligning the US$9 trillion in COVID-19 global stimulus spending to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we can drive a global economic recovery that supports people and our planet.”

The group has identified five critical outcomes that are essential to Australia’s role in regional and global recovery from the pandemic:

  1. Achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030;
  2. Coherent policies and market mechanisms that support innovation and move Australia to net-zero emissions by 2050;
  3. Multilateral and regional partnerships to drive economic recovery, build environmental resilience and enhance regional outcomes;
  4. Investment in fair, transparent and more inclusive trade; and
  5. Reduced structural inequalities to protect and support the most vulnerable.

The plan notes that while Australia ranks third among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it ranks only 37th in the world on progress in meeting the SDGs and well below other OECD nations on climate action and the environment.

Global Compact Network Australia Executive Director, Kylie Porter, said “We know that just 39% of companies have targets that are sufficiently ambitious to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 — and less than a third consider their industry to be moving fast enough to deliver the SDGs.”

“Change will not happen through incremental improvements. The SDGs provide the framework for the level of ambition required for Australia’s COVID-19 recovery. We are in a unique position to use the SDGs as a basis for a socially just and green recovery that creates intergenerational value now and into the future.”

Professor John Thwaites, Chair of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, and Monash Sustainable Development Institute said policies to support innovation would not only improve Australia’s performance on emissions reduction but help build a stronger economy. “Fast-tracking renewable projects will show the market that our government takes green growth seriously,” Professor Thwaites said.

“Every dollar of stimulus spent on clean energy projects generates nearly three times as many jobs per dollar than investment in fossil fuel projects.

“We have an opportunity to build back stronger and better, with investment in renewable energy and innovation that drives Australia towards net-zero emissions, and supports our Pacific neighbours who are already among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

The five-point plan calls for Australia to use the globally-agreed SDGs framework to guide key policy decision making, elevate the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised, create longstanding and inclusive partnerships, and unite all sectors behind a plan that creates a more just, resilient and greener economy that leaves no one behind.