Sustainable Development Outlook 2020

Achieving SDGs in the Wake of COVID-19 - Scenarios for Policymakers

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The setbacks caused by COVID-19 (coronavirus) need not be permanent, and it is possible to regain the momentum and move ahead towards the SDGs. It is even possible to convert the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity for recovering better, by directing much of the resources earmarked for recovery toward investment in promoting the SDGs. While the impact of COVID-19 for many prosperity-related SDGs was negative, its impact for many planet-related SDGs has been positive: greenhouse gas emissions declined; air and water quality improved; and nature’s regeneration was witnessed in many areas. These opposite impacts revealed that current ways of achieving prosperity conflict with the health of the planet.



Protecting the planet in the wake of COVID-19

The progress toward the planet SDGs in the pre-COVID-19 years was the most disappointing, as the world was in fact moving in an opposite direction. Ironically, COVID-19 has been good for the planet: CO2 emissions declined and air and water quality improved. As COVID-19 forced human beings into confinement, other species (both animal and plant) reclaimed some of the ground they had lost over the years. The world appeared to have witnessed a regeneration of nature. The question now is whether the world will be able to sustain this process of regeneration or will fall back to the pre-COVID-19 trajectory leading away from the planet SDGs. This chapter addresses this question, focusing on SDGs regarding climate action, protection of land, water, and biodiversity, and sustainable consumption and production.


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