Build Back by Reinventing Prosperity

Build Back by Reinventing Prosperity

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly, and radically, altered the everyday assumptions of people around the world. We have seen shocking loss of life and unprecedented direct and indirect costs (one estimate projects potential GDP losses of $82.4 trillion over 5 years.)

Decision-making at the human scale can have global consequences, and people’s willingness (and ability) to act with knowledge and insight can determine the fate of millions. We may be entering a new phase of geopolitics, in which people in community are the new superpower.

The Principles for Reinventing Prosperity

To achieve shared, adaptive resilience, we need to recognize and act on these six Principles for Reinventing Prosperity:

  1. We are all future-builders.
  2. Health is a fabric of wellbeing and value.
  3. Resilience is a baseline imperative.
  4. Leave no one behind.
  5. Design to transcend crisis.
  6. Maximize integrative value creation.

1) We are all future-builders.

Everyone’s empowerment and agency have real value for everyone else.

Marginalization and the degradation of choices undermine people’s ability to choose better, to shape a better future; enhanced agency for low-income people and communities makes it easier for a society to achieve better overall outcomes.

Areas of Action:

  • 1a) Value the role of every person in rebuilding for a better future. Make policy that treats each person as inherently valuable, not merely as potential beneficiaries of (or contributors to) economies of scale.
  • 1b) Create participatory policy-design processes and public accountability, so that scientific evidence and local need can combine to eliminate structural inefficiencies and minimize system-level risk. (Read the Engage4Climate Toolkit.)
  • 1c) Mobilize capabilities at the human scale, by incentivizing new investment in activities that empower people and expand the agency of individuals and communities, and foster sustainable consumption.

2) Health is a fabric of wellbeing and value.

Human health, economic health, and planetary health are inextricably connected to justice and prosperity, and their benefits enhance and reinforce each other.

Health is not only a personal question, or a question of general public health. It is also contingent on (and plays a role in) the economic health and resilience of people and societies, and is connected to the health and resilience of natural systems at local, regional, and planetary scales.

Areas of Action:

  • 2a) Study health impacts at all scales. Invest in the study of ways in which everyday choices (norms, consumer practice, financing strategies) impact the health of human beings, of local biodiversity and ecosystems, of regional watersheds, and of planetary systems, and how these impacts interact with each other.
  • 2b) Develop clear, context-specific metrics revealing the health-building or health-eroding value of both existing and emerging technologies and practices.
  • 2c) Put health first. Reward those institutions and enterprises that do more to minimize negative health impacts at all scales and to maximize their role in building resilience for people, and for natural systems.

3) Resilience is a baseline imperative.

To recover from and transcend our current multi-faceted crisis, we must rebuild for a better future.

Resilience is not a luxury; it is a baseline imperative, and the reason societies of all sizes first came into existence. The cost of resilience failure is too high to allow a return to unsustainable business as usual. To be successful, COVID recovery plans must foster health and resilience at all scales, for all people.

Areas of Action:

  • 3a) Eliminate pollution. Identify opportunities to eliminate air and water pollution, as well as climate-forcing carbon pollution, and act to prevent future pollution.
  • 3b) Map the action steps to better futures. Work with business, banking, communities, and stakeholders, to map out 20-year strategies for maximizing routine resilience-building in all areas.
  • 3c) Leverage sustainable food and land use strategies, as well as green infrastructure and ecosystem services, to minimize risks. This will free up public and private investment for expanding health and wellbeing, and allow for more rapid deployment of solutions to stave off major shocks.

4) Leave no one behind.

Include everyone in the building of a better future, by ensuring everyone’s health, agency, and cooperative capabilities can go to work.

A world that works for everyone is a world that works. A world that fails to work for everyone is designed to fail. Investing in real good for real people is the surest way to build (or rebuild) an economy that is capable of shared sustainable thriving.

Areas of Action:

  • 4a) Honor the Right to Know—how decisions are made, whether everyday activities expand or reduce danger, create health risks, or favor sustainable outcomes. High-quality free public education for all, open access to scientific evidence, and community-building transparent institutions, are vital foundations for sustainable prosperity.
  • 4b) Redirect finance (public, private, multilateral, and blended) to innovations in business, science, and practice, that expand economic empowerment for lower-income and marginal communities and enhance agency for everyone.
  • 4c) Let people lead. Open processes elicit higher ambition and point to innovations that improve health, foster opportunity, safeguard air, water, and ecosystems, and leverage community-level capabilities to do this affordably. Prioritizing community-level empowerment and thriving will strengthen the overall process of investment, recovery, and sustainable development.

5) Design to transcend crisis.

Adaptive, inclusive, resilient prosperity is within reach, if we work to eliminate critical system failures.

New investments and COVID-19 recovery strategies should not incentivize, support, or re-establish critical system failures. Finance, innovation, technology, and policy must value resilience across human and natural systems, and in their interrelationship, at all scales.

Areas of Action:

  • 5a) Price pollution & expand incomes: By putting a direct price on carbon, at the source, governments can ensure pollution is priced across the whole economy; by returning revenues to households, they can ensure the everyday economy keeps creating new jobs.
  • 5b) Reinvent food systems to foster health and resilience. Climate-smart agriculture, sustainable land use, nature-positive investment, and delivery of healthy food, affordably, to all people—all of this in combination provides an opportunity for the world economy to reverse trillions of dollars in lost wealth per year, and to build a more solid foundation for future health, resilience, and prosperity.
  • 5c) Redesign infrastructure, trade, and financial systems to align with and build on the resilience value of persistent progress toward all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

6) Maximize integrative value creation.

Value (wellbeing) emerges from complex interactions; assessing value must include assessment of health and resilience as a product of these interactions.

We are living through the 6th Mass Extinction, with unprecedented biodiversity collapse occurring on all continents and in all domains of life. We must embrace complexity, integrate across watersheds and through planetary systems, and deliberately cooperate to build resilience value through Nature-positive investments.

  • 6a) Collaborate across watersheds, to build resilience by intelligently mapping natural systems value to human activity, while integrating upstream and downstream interests, to protect all stakeholders against system-level shocks and maximize external returns on investment (XROI).
  • 6b) Establish resilience value as an operational foundation for everyday development and investment planning, conditioning business incentives and financial support on plans for steadily building XROI.
  • 6c) Prioritize Nature-positive investments in all areas, making use of resilience value metrics and other indicators of XROI, to efficiently mitigate the risk of multi-system major shocks.

Get in shape to outrun planetary emergency.

To maximize future opportunity, upgrade to all-inclusive NDCs.

Citizens’ Climate International is committed to empowering people around the world to build political will for a future of climate-smart resilience and shared prosperity, open to all. 2021 provides an unprecedented opportunity to shift everyday practice and investment to build that better future.

We urge all governments use these six principles and their 18 corresponding areas of action to intelligently shift national resources across all sectors into far more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), ahead of the COP26 UN Climate Change negotiations. No other path to future prosperity or geopolitical leadership holds so much promise.

Read the full Principles for Reinventing Prosperity brief, and get more information about related actions and innovations, at