EGL Webinar Summary: Where is Decarbonization in the Recovery Plan?

Recap: Where is Decarbonization in the Recovery Plan?

Former responses to major shocks like the 2008 global economic crisis exhibit our tendency to return to normalcy, and the COVID-19 pandemic similarly challenges us. As countries scramble to put economic and social recovery plans in place, there is an opportunity for decarbonization and climate action to play a significant role. Pursuing decarbonization, equity, justice, and anti-racism is critical pathways  for a just-transition. The EGL hosted three fantastic panelists  to discuss how countries, especially Canada, can avoid making the same mistakes as the last ‘green’ recovery following the 2008-2009 economic crisis, and allow recovery plans to help societies build back better. 


Kyla Tienhaara, Professor at Queens University

Matthew Mendelsohn, Visiting Professor at Ryerson University, former Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet at the Government of Canada, and creator of First Policy Response: Canada’s Policy Community Response to Covid-19

Priyanka Lloyd, Executive Director at Green Economy Canada.

Watch the full webinar, click on the link here.


Overview of the event

This webinar event featured three speakers in a panel discussion moderated by Steven Bernstein, EGL Co-Director and Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. 

Steven Bernstein opened the event with the question: “How will it be different this time? Will we see a serious and sustained effort on the part of governments in the recovery period to transform the economy away from carbon lock-in, and towards decarbonization?”

Panel Discussion

Kyla Tienhaara discussed the idea of crisis as an opportunity. From an environmental perspective, Kyla indicated two different types of opportunities. The first regards the environmental opportunity to spend money, and the second is the opportunity for structural change. Tienhaara also listed three critical obstacles that are needed to be considered: de-prioritization, the fear of trying something new (the rigidity hypothesis), and the possibility for misuse in opportunities afforded by a crisis (shock doctrine thesis). Two case studies were then illustrated to support this: Korea’s green stimulus case study for 2009 and 2020 and Canada’s green stimulus program case study. Kyla highlighted how paying attention to equity issues when designing a green stimulus can improve environmental and social outcomes.

Next, Matthew Mendelson noted that now is the time to accelerate many of the climate programs. Mr. Mendelson questioned how the government seeks to organize itself in the next six months and properly execute its promises. Over the last six months, the government has used a variety of rule changing mechanisms to do things that are possible sooner than we expected. That same focus is needed for the climate piece as well. In terms of climate effort, Mendelson argues that rather than a perfect method, one that is quick and convenient better serves our current interests. Mendolson stated that the civilizational challenge is to complete tasks quickly, through prioritization and monitoring. The money is scattered across governments and departments, making the alignment question critical in addressing government solutions.

Lastly, Priyanka Lloyd discussed the potential for small and medium enterprise (SME) businesses in the recovery plan post-pandemic. Representing 99% of businesses in Canada, SMEs have opportunities to “green” their operations, especially from a cost-savings perspective. Furthermore, the green stimulus can benefit from initiatives provided by SMEs, such as financial incentives and building internal knowledge. Lloyd argued that these official voices and plans fail to acknowledge the opportunities SMEs provide as an economic lever for transformation, such as support for achieving targets for local communities and businesses.

Question Period

A question and answer period followed the panel discussion where the audience questioned the influence of the U.S. election, how to overcome bias, the number of targets green recovery programs can address, and whether the economic reason for retrofitting has inflated.