“Restore Our Earth!” was the theme and rallying cry for this year’s Earth Day on 22 April. This is not something that could be achieved on a single day. Yet, Earth Day 2021 might signal a greater turning of the tide as the world enters the “Green Twenties.”
Europe–Africa relations are facing a double challenge – the COVID-19 pandemic puts social and economic systems under strain at a point when the consequences of the climate crisis are being increasingly felt on both continents. Within Africa and Europe, debates have started about recovery measures to address the pandemic’s short and medium-term socio-economic consequences. A key question in these debates is how to “build back better” and use the crisis to promote green transitions and move towards more sustainable development pathways.
The unprecedented scale of the crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic calls for greater empowerment of international, European and regional financial institutions for development, development finance institutions (DFIs) and public development banks. They all need to step up their efforts, to ‘build back better’, in a greener, more inclusive and gender-sensitive manner. This paper suggests ways to do that, adjusting the current business model of financial institutions for development to align and coordinate European investments for development.
The consequences of COVID-19 will shape European policies and politics for years to come. Europe is lacking behind particularly on the SDGs related to agriculture, climate change and biodiversity and in strengthening convergence of living standards across EU member states. The pandemic has made these SDGs even more difficult to achieve by 2030, and could derail progress on other SDGs as well.
The end of 2020 seems to have marked the closure of a cycle of political turbulence that started in 2016 with the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. The European Union, which could have emerged from this period in a much weakened condition, has instead been strengthened, having established a clear long-term project for European societies and for Europe’s place in the world: the Green Deal.
“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. It affects us all.”
The EU intends to play a pioneering role in the future, armed with a “clear and coherent Arctic policy”. If this is to succeed, the EU will need to take the lessons learned from the pandemic into account because COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities and challenges in the region, particularly in terms of infrastructure and healthcare.