Once again, the world finds itself in crisis mode. The 21st century is still young, but has already seen plenty of crises, each of which has been noteworthy in its own right. This crisis is particularly immediate, and therefore very dramatic as well. A virus has turned the world upside down. It is a matter of life and death. Points of weakness become evident, in the health care system, but also in the political structure. The cooperation between countries, the approach to a global problem, is not yet working as it should. This is something with which we are familiar from climate policy.
Managing the coronavirus crisis and protecting human life currently has top priority. The picture of the world afterwards remains full of question marks. Trends are already emerging, however.
- The way out of the crisis will have to be pursued along the lines of the goals that an overwhelming majority of people in the worlds of business, society and politics had already been advocating before the crisis. The global "recovery" needs direction. It has to be sustainable, future-proof and climate neutral.
- Measures against the effects of the crises should be timely, temporary and targeted. They must also have a transformative character. Traditional consumer aid and economic stimulus programmes alone won’t be enough. Clear guidelines and a clear economic framework are required. A stronger focus on the pricing of CO2, for example. We have already developed approaches for this. Now, in this difficult time, they must make a key contribution to economic policy as a whole.
- The crisis has also shown that we need to take a holistic view of things. Focusing on one problem alone will not do justice to this century. The Paris Climate Targets that were adopted in 2015 take centre stage. Yet the SDGs, which were also adopted in 2015, provide the decisive framework for our actions. These relate to climate, the environment and energy. But also to health, reducing poverty, ensuring peace, and much more. The current crisis has shown that we have to keep sight of everything. "Better policies for better lives", such is the motto of the OECD. Yet that will only be possible if we think and act in terms of planetary-wide limits and global responsibility.
The extent of the current crisis and the knowledge of all the other crises – especially the climate crisis – is calling old certainties into question. We will have to talk about fragility and resilience. About globalised creation of value versus decentralised security needs. In this respect, universalism and particularism will play a role. One thing must be of lasting certainty, however: international solidarity is the basis for the good life. Person for person. Generation for generation. Country for country. Only those societies that are willing to help each other will be able to shape this century successfully.