Photo/Illutration Patricia Flor, Ambassador of the European Union to Japan. (Provided by EU Delegation to Japan)

Do you feel anxiety and anger because coronavirus has come to dominate your life?

It certainly has the world firmly in its grip: more than 33 million people infected with a death toll of over 1 million and mounting, a global recession and job and income loss for uncountable citizens.

Governments around the world are asking the same questions: how to overcome the virus, restart our economies and return to some normalcy of life.

As all of us rightly ponder the right measures against COVID-19 we must not, however, forget that the existential risks associated with climate change, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss will not go away either--virus or no.

In Kyoto in May 2019, scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that if left unaddressed climate change and environmental degradation will lead to catastrophic consequences soon, threatening to make large parts of our planet uninhabitable already in the coming decades.

The truth is that the choices we make today will define tomorrow’s future! There can be no doubt: post-COVID-19 recovery and bold and courageous climate action must go together. Both need a concerted, cross-border, global cooperative effort.

Globally, governments are set to spend around 10 trillion euros ($11.628 trillion, or 1.224 quadrillion yen) borrowed from future generations for post-COVID-19 recovery. This offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in a sustainable, resource-efficient and circular economy fit for the 21st century, instead of cementing the obsolete carbon economy of the past.

We should all accelerate the necessary transition to a safer, more resilient future.

As befits a leader in climate action, the recently adopted EU’s post-COVID-19 recovery plan “Next Generation EU” (with a budget of 750 billion euros) and the revamped EU 2021-27 budget of 1.074 billion euros adopted by the European Council are designed to boost recovery while promoting accelerated green and digital transitions and a fairer and more resilient society.

The European Council also agreed that 30 percent of the total should target climate-related projects, in line with the goal to be climate neutral by 2050. The EU is also committed to protecting and restoring ecosystems through its new Biodiversity Strategy.

Japan’s fiscal stimulus for post-COVID-19 recovery is among the world’s largest. We call on all international partners, including Japan, to put in place clear and robust low-carbon policies and green recovery strategies in this context. This will give our societies a sense of direction and purpose, and guide investors, businesses, workers and consumers toward sustainability.

The EU has a strong interest in cooperating with Japan to channel investment into environmentally sustainable economic activities within a post-coronavirus world.

We are keen to share expertise and to learn about the Japanese approach--the online Hydrogen Energy Ministerial meeting organized by Japan on Oct. 14 is a good example of much-needed global cooperative efforts.

The EU–Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement and the Economic Partnership agreement provide a good framework for close cooperation on green recovery--let us make full use of this opportunity.


Patricia Flor is the Ambassador of the European Union to Japan. The 27 Ambassadors of the EU Member States to Japan align themselves with this message.