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Environmental activists delivered a petition to a special session of the Swiss parliament on Monday demanding that a government aid package should promote a “green recovery” from the coronavirus crisis.

More than 22,000 people signed the petition demanding that support for companies in sectors with large greenhouse gas emissions like aviation be tied to reducing their environmental impact.

Campaigners said the 62 billion Swiss francs ($64 billion) in emergency economic aid should be used in an environmentally friendly way.

The package includes 1.28 billion Swiss francs in loan guarantees for Lufthansa units Swiss and Edelweiss.

With some lawmakers wearing protective facemasks, the parliament convened at an exhibition centre rather than its normal building so members had extra space to maintain social distancing rules.

“We are here because we want to make it a green recovery. We need to foster measures that help us to quit fossil fuels now in the wake of corona,” said Georg Klingler from Greenpeace Switzerland.

“We need to make our society more resilient for the crises to come,” he told Reuters.

He urged the government to back measures to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and promote renewable energy, and called on the financial industry to fund sustainable solutions.

“Today they are still heavily invested in fossil fuels and financing a world that will get 4C to 6C hotter,” he said. “That is not sustainable at all.”

Many environmentalists see efforts to minimize the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic as a chance to scale up the technologies needed to speed a transition to cleaner energy.

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, has also said support from governments could drive rapid growth in battery and hydrogen technology to help the world to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

The Swiss government has made few moves in that direction, although President Simonetta Sommaruga said last week the government’s climate targets were still valid and airlines needed to contribute to them.

Campaigner Zoe Roth from Basel said the coronavirus crisis presented an opportunity to change thinking.

“During this corona crisis we have seen how vulnerable this world is,” she said. “In the … climate crisis, which is way bigger, we really need to do something. We need to take this crisis as a chance to build a more just and more sustainable future,” she said.

Rich nations must make pandemic recovery plans green, says global investors

According to leading global investor groups that together manage trillions of dollars in assets, the world’s richest nations must ensure their coronavirus pandemic recovery plans are sustainable and help meet the goals of the Paris climate accord.

While some members of the world’s 20 biggest economies such as Britain, France and Germany have made statements about doing just that, some of the biggest emitters such as China and the U.S. have yet to do so.

The intervention comes as more governments start to plan for the lifting of lockdown restrictions that have cratered the revenues of companies from airlines to retailers and radically changed the economics of the energy sector.

The groups said private capital would play a key role in the recovery, but investors needed long-term policies to be put in place that reflected the agreed move to a low-carbon economy.

“Recovery plans that exacerbate climate change would expose investors and national economies to escalating financial, health and social risks in the coming years,” they said in a statement said on Monday.

“Governments should avoid the prioritization of risky, short-term emissions-intensive projects,” added the groups, which include the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change, members of which include BlackRock.

Recovery money would be best spent on creating jobs and sustainable infrastructure that helped meet the goal of net zero carbon emissions across sectors including energy, industrials, building and transport, they said.

Also signing the statement, under the collective group known as the Investor Agenda, were the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, Ceres, CDP, Investor Group on Climate Change, Asia Investor Group on Climate Change and the UNEP Finance Initiative.

The statement follows similar calls for a green recovery in recent days from International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week urged the G20 to do more calling for “brave, visionary and collaborative leadership” to use coronavirus relief money to accelerate the decarbonisation of the world economy.

The G20 collectively accounted for more than 80% of global emissions and over 85% of the global economy, and without a contribution by the biggest emitters, global efforts risked being doomed to failure, he said.


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