With flights grounded, highways free of cars and animals taking back city streets it follows the pandemic should - environmentally - be a positive for the planet.
ANU's director of climate policy Frank Jotzo said reduced emissions were likely a temporary blip and there was potential for private industry to tighten purse strings in regard to sustainability.
"To the extent that private industry will slow down its investment in renewable power there is really a clear case for government to step in and keep that investment pipeline going," Dr Jotzo said.
He said renewable-energy supply, energy efficiency in housing, land management and transport projects like light rail, bike paths and footpaths were the most promising investments to drive a green economic recovery in Australia.
"As a Canberra-type proposition anything to do with building stuff in the local area is very attractive because it creates jobs very quickly," he said.
Dr Jotzo said retrofitting social housing and public buildings like schools and hospitals would help save energy and lower future running costs, while creating jobs immediately.
"It's no longer a question of the clean, high-cost alternative versus the low-cost dirty low-cost option. What makes business and economic sense is also the cleanest option," he said.
Former ACT deputy chief minister Simon Corbell spoke at a national summit this week spruiking sustainability's potential to drive a post-COVID-19 recovery.
Mr Corbell said Canberra's reverse auction programs - under which five wind farms and four solar farms were given 20-year fixed-price contracts for their energy and renewable energy certificates - proved renewable energy purchasing was a successful way to drive local investment.
"As the ACT shifts now to think of other key areas for future development in the clean energy and zero emissions space things like electric buses, hydrogen manufacture and energy efficiency in government buildings and in public and social housing are key opportunities," he said.
Mr Corbell said Canberra's pandemic bounceback plan would see the government spending money on things like household solar and storage.
"If it's going to be spending that money it should also be requiring that the private partners that participate are delivering co-benefits," he said.
Mr Corbell pointed to skills training, local jobs for contractors and supporting the university sector through research and development.
A bill from ACT Greens' Caroline Le Couteur this week would have greenhouse gas emissions considered as part of development applications and require high greenhouse gas-emitting proposals to undertake an environmental impact statement.
The Housing Industry Association welcomed the decision to reject the majority of the bill, which it said would cripple housing in the ACT.
Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said ACT planning regulations already considered climate change.
"ACT Labor knows we can respond to climate change and create jobs at the same time," Mr Gentleman said.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT government had allocated $365,000 for solar and sustainability upgrades on public and community housing.
"We are continuing to ensure all our new infrastructure projects are environmentally sustainable, including the Canberra Hospital expansion and the CIT Woden campus," Mr Barr said.
"In a first for the ACT, the Canberra Hospital's new facility will be an all-electric building, helping to minimise the carbon footprint of the hospital, improving the hospital's green star rating and supporting the ACT's target of net zero emissions."
Urban designer Lucian Iacob said city planners had the opportunity to incentivise green technology and construction methods by expediting approval pathways and offering incentives for proposals that offer broader public benefits.
"The residential development industry has a unique opportunity to drive a significant green COVID-19 economic recovery," Mr Iacob said.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged conventional development models and patterns and reinforced the importance of healthy, resilient, self-sufficient and liveable communities.
"A green-led COVID-19 response can be driven by new neighbourhood design models based on principles that foster connectedness, are walkable and promote sustainable ways of living."