Governments around the world have introduced stimulus packages to shield their economies from the impacts of COVID-19. Many diverse groups have called upon governments to ensure that these stimulus packages shift the focus from traditional fossil-fuel based industries towards policies that will contribute to climate change mitigation while stimulating the economy. We have evaluated stimulus measures taken by 14 representative countries from across the globe from the perspective of their long-term impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and environmental impacts. Unfortunately, most countries we analyzed focus their priority on short-term economic benefits over long-term environmentally friendly strategies that could potentially decrease GHG emissions.
Hepburn et al.  evaluated a variety of stimulus measures and classified them on both an environmentally friendliness and economic effectiveness scale. Based on this classification we have reviewed the publicly available data on the measures put in place in each of these countries and classified them as either:
- Green: Likely to reduce GHG emissions post COVD-19: Germany – South Korea – Australia
- Yellow: Likely to maintain the status quo: Canada – France – UK – South Africa – India
- Red: Likely to increase GHG emissions post COVID-19: Russia – US – China – Nigeria – Egypt – Brazil
To illustrate the reasoning behind each classification we illustrate our method for Germany, Russia, and Canada. The reasoning is similar for all other countries evaluated.
Germany, our ‘green’ example, has an economic rescue package worth up to €130 billion ($147.5 billion US) to stimulate businesses and support workers . €50 billion will go to addressing climate change by targeting initiatives such as public transport, electric vehicles, and renewable energy and €9 billion is earmarked to fund the hydrogen industry , . Around 40% of Germany’s stimulus spending is focussed on a lower GHG emission future with the remaining 60% being neutral . As our ‘red’ example, Russia has unveiled measures worth $72 billion US aimed at reviving the economy including significant investments in oil companies with no specific plans to address environmental sustainability , .
Canada has a more neutral response. While Russia has focussed stimulus on supporting the oil and gas industry and Germany has made climate change mitigation a cornerstone of their plan, Canada has put most of its stimulus into neutral job support for the economy. A few measures are aimed at environmental issues ($1.72 billion CAD for cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells, $750 million CAD for reducing GHG emissions from conventional oil and gas ), but funds for the energy sector are going exclusively to the oil and gas industry, not renewable energy. Out of what is likely to be more than $150 billion CAD ($111.1 billion USD) of stimulus most of this is neutral economic support .
In evaluating different countries’ stimulus packages, we have found that twice as many countries are in the red category than the green. Given the pressing need to transition to a world with net-zero GHG emissions we have an opportunity to use COVID-19 stimulus to support sustainable initiatives while still bolstering the economy. While there is a high level of interest in this approach, there is further work to be done to ensure that in the recovery from COVID-19 we are not pushed further behind in our emission reduction goals.
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 “Germany Just Unveiled the World’s Greenest Stimulus Plan,” Bloomberg.com, Jun. 05, 2020.
 J. de Weck, “Germany Is Finally Ready to Spend,” Foreign Policy. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/06/22/germany-covid19-pandemic-stimulus-spending-savings-glut-europe/ (accessed Jul. 13, 2020).
 “The fiscal response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus | Bruegel.” https://www.bruegel.org/publications/datasets/covid-national-dataset/ (accessed Jul. 15, 2020).
 M. ANTONOVA, “Russia Unveils $72-billion Virus Recovery Plan.” https://www.barrons.com/news/russia-to-spend-over-70-billion-on-virus-recovery-plan-01591099504 (accessed Jul. 15, 2020).
 “Meeting on economic issues.” http://government.ru/en/news/39237/ (accessed Jul. 15, 2020).
 D. of F. Canada, “Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan,” aem, May 28, 2020. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html#industry (accessed May 31, 2020).
 https://www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca, “COVID-19 Analysis,” PBO-DPB. https://www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/en/covid-19 (accessed Jul. 15, 2020).