Morality and Law
Great Reset: Is Sustainable Development Possible in a Covid World?

The first global air purification of the pandemic era has led us to ask if serious environmental improvements are possible without an initial disaster. Without it, humanity itself will never do anything. We agree that in terms of social psychology, this is a rather pessimistic conclusion. But we also agree that it reflects a valid perspective writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

At the end of September 2020, under the auspices of the World Economic Forum, the annual meeting of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit was held. Like all of this years major international meetings, it was held via videoconference due to the on-going pandemic. On the one hand, it is clear that the lack of live communication limited the range of opportunities for the summit; first of all, behind-the-scenes conversations and discussions practically disappeared, these characteristically are of key importance for all international meetings. On the other hand, the original distance format led to the fact that, undoubtedly, more participants were involved in the work of the summit than would have been present in a face-to-face session. Thus, the circle of those involved in the discussion and development of solutions has expanded.
Morality and Law
The European Union’s Green Wars
Elena Maslova
The EU is becoming the trendsetter for the global environmental agenda. It sees itself not only as a competitive economy but also as the leader of the green revolution.
Expert Opinions


But this is a matter of style. As for the substance of the problems in focus, then, obviously, one should consider a question which was there from the very beginning: is sustainable development possible in the era of a global pandemic, which, apparently, will not disappear tomorrow and will remain with us for a long time? Emerging as the main slogan of the summit, there was a call for a "Great Reset" in the global work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. It is clear that this is an ambitious plan, and I think that in the near future the term “Great Reset” will firmly enter the political discourse, just as the term “Sustainable Development” once entered it. Such a reset will be spoken about from the high rostrum; in calling for it, the most "advanced" green governments will begin to form national plans for the "reset", and this very word will quickly become a sign of good form in environmental discussions. If you are talking about the Great Reset, then you are in trend. And if not, then no.

The logic that the global pandemic, which has seemed to sap the world community of all of its energy and resources, should not become an obstacle, but an incentive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, on the one hand, is paradoxical. It is clear that this is a necessary meaningful and aesthetically beautiful perspective, but, on the other hand, now not everyone is up to it, generally speaking. It can also be put forward in a couple of years, when, hopefully, the coronavirus pandemic will lose its severity, and governments and corporations will have the opportunity to allocate additional “Big Resources” for the “Great Reset”.

At the same time, it should be noted that almost from the very beginning of the pandemic, in the winter and spring of this year, many environmental organisations and forums began to actively postulate this particular approach; that right now is the time for new large-scale green initiatives. Precisely because humanity is already at a turning point, and it is necessary to urgently change the prevailing administrative and social practices and approaches. In this context, there have already been quite influential reports, for example, that the epidemic should provide a new impetus for the development of green energy.
Morality and Law
Green World After the Pandemic?
Oleg Barabanov
If nature has shown its real ability to quickly cleanse itself, then why did it take a terrible epidemic, and why can’t mankind achieve it otherwise? Even if we disregard environmental mysticism and eschatology, the notion that through the epidemic nature takes revenge on man, this demonstrable example the positive impact of the epidemic on nature could serve as the strongest argument for expanding the green movement, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.
Expert Opinions


This logic is supported by the fact that, perhaps, the only positive consequence of the pandemic was the rapid purification of the air during the lockdown period in many parts of the Earth. It became clear evidence of the fact that it is enough for humanity to suspend its activity for a month or two and radically cut emissions for nature to quickly become more clean. As a result, the quarantines, paradoxically, became a kind of first global experiment in purifying nature. For the first time, something which was previously only spoken about with mathematical models was successfully demonstrated in practice. The whole world saw essentially the first general improvement in global air quality since the beginning of the industrial era. And this is by no means an exaggeration. Therefore, it is natural that this experience may well be used to promote the importance of green initiatives in the mass consciousness.

However, when the lockdowns ended and the economic activity of mankind was restored at least partially, air purity began to deteriorate as quickly as it had  improved. Therefore, this pandemic experiment in clean air may remain only in memories. All of this is forcing environmental activists to call for changes right now. This gives hope that the perception of the Great Reset will be more positive and sincere than it would have been without the pandemic.

There is another aspect of this problem, which was revealed thanks to the pandemic and lockdowns. It, in fact, reflects on the previously-addressed theme of dystopia manifesting itself in reality. The first global air purification of the pandemic era has led us to ask if serious environmental improvements are possible without an initial disaster. Without it, humanity itself will never do anything. We agree that in terms of social psychology, this is a rather pessimistic conclusion. But we also agree that it reflects a valid perspective. Therefore, the next big ecological leap forward may only be possible after the next global catastrophe.
Do we want to conduct such a global experiment with nature again? I think not. Therefore, the paradoxical ambition of the new environmental initiatives that we see now is not only fully justified, but also gives leaders a chance to steer humanity towards green initiatives. Better the Great Reset (albeit costly) than the dystopia of expecting a new catastrophe.
Morality and Law
The World as Dystopia: A Literary Genre or Reality?
Oleg Barabanov
Among the social consequences of the coronavirus pandemic it is worth highlighting a rather tangible increase of attention to the Anti-Utopia genre. Moreover, in various theories and texts, in forecasts of the world development in the post-epidemic era, the thesis that the real world of the present and the future is an embodied dystopia is increasingly beginning to be asserted.
Expert Opinions
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.