The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on conservation policies and practice at multiple scales, including protected and conserved areas (PCAs). There is a need to understand the implications for PCAs of recent actions, enacted or promoted in the wake of COVID-19. To fill this knowledge gap, we reviewed economic stimulus packages and other government policies that were implemented or advanced between January and October 2020. We identified positive examples of support for PCAs in economic recovery packages (in 17 countries) and instances where commitments made before 2020 to scale up environmental protections were advanced (in 22 countries), but also rollbacks of protection measures (64 cases in 22 countries). On balance, post-COVID economic stimulus packages and policies to date have undermined more than supported environmental protections, including for PCAs; rollbacks may have long-term consequences where they authorise damaging infrastructure or undermine Indigenous rights. We suggest priority actions for a green economic recovery that include putting PCAs at the centre of such efforts, helping ensure the long-term prosperity of people and our planet.