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Sustainable Development Outlook 2020

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

image of Sustainable Development Outlook 2020

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.

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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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