The ROI of Green Investment is the Key to Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery New White Paper Suggests


In a time of uncertainty, there is a way forward – green investment for the economic future and the future of the Climate. 

  • Investment in renewable energy has the potential to generate almost twice as many jobs as investment in fossil fuels
  • Delivering access to green spaces could reduce £2.1 billion health costs per year
  • Investment in electric vehicles in cities could deliver annual returns of US$1 trillion

COVID-19 has impacted the world on many levels. But even as a ‘second wave’ progresses, thoughts are increasingly turning towards how we can recover economically. With a nod to Churchill’s famous dictum of “never let a good crisis go to waste”, a new white paper, The Air we Breathe: A Playbook for the Urban Post-Pandemic Environment, suggests that the adoption of sustainable practices could present a faster road to long-term prosperity than traditional investment options. 

The report explores how sustainable methods can be used to reinvigorate the global economy – starting at a city level – while helping to reduce the enormous financial drain associated with environmental degradation. 

Renewable energy is a key precept of the paper, with research demonstrating  that global investment in this area could engender multiple returns by 2050, including $50+ trillion of capital and significant employment benefits. Taking London as a case study, an investment of just $500m in renewable energy has the potential to generate an additional 3,700 jobs – almost twice as many as comparable investment in fossil fuels. 

But while renewables are an important feature of the white paper, it’s not the only green area highlighted as a potential means to kickstart the economy. A transition to a more efficient electric vehicle fleet in cities has the potential to deliver annual returns of  $3.7 trillion by 2050, creating 3.6 million jobs by 2030, and preventing the release of 0.71 gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

Digitisation is also highlighted as a means of cutting carbon at the same time as delivering significant economic gain. While further measures illustrate how reducing pollution can bolster the economy through the removal of unnecessary spending – it’s predicted that the NHS will spend up to £5.3 billion per annum on pollution-related conditions by 2035 unless action is taken.

White paper author and founder of Urban Economic, Meagan Crawford, comments: ‘The scale of the COVID-19 crisis has called for an unprecedented economic response, with governments rolling out $10 trillion in stimulus packages in the first two months of the pandemic. But that’s only the very start of the recovery process. Broad fiscal stimulus and investment will be required to reinvigorate economies. 

‘One of the most significant barriers in the adoption of green and sustainable investments has been the belief that sustainable investments require a greater up-front cost for a reduced return. However, there is growing evidence that sustainable green infrastructure can out-perform traditional forms of investment in terms of returns and efficacy. 

‘Pandemic recovery provides a unique opportunity for city leaders and industry to make a departure from ‘business as usual’ and set in place robust, sustainable and transformative recovery strategies. 

‘How cities act now will be the lynchpin for success or failure.’

Co-author, Joe Dignan comments: “With Covid-19 and climate change at the forefront of the news agenda, we have people’s attention. To build that attention into enlightened self-interest we need to give people the information they need to justify doing things differently. In an era of austerity, that mandates demonstrating the RoI of Green Infrastructure.”


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