Undeniably, the extreme set of measures governments had to bring in for flattening the SARS-CoV-2 curve and the scale of economic recovery packages introduced have been totally unprecedented during peacetime. With health being at stake - especially for vulnerable groups with underlying diseases, the elderly or people with no access to decent healthcare- and a new global recession knocking on the door, climate change seems to be off-topic. Is it though?
Notwithstanding that there is no evidence for linking Covid-19 pandemic to climate change directly, many scholars and experts have been warning us during the last few years about the high probability of such an outbreak as a result of the way we interact with our planet. Climate change and global warming make our world more hospitable for all sorts of pathogenic microorganisms while human activities lead to ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. Thus, we come into contact with wildlife species that carry new kinds of bacteria or viruses that we are not immune to.
A few months ago, before Covid-19 recent outbreak our world was facing two major challenges: climate change and the refugee crisis. While the latter relies mostly on political response, climate change requires approaching the matter collectively. From governments that need to draw up ambitious yet rigorous climate policies and placing those on top of their agendas, to the private sector that must go above and beyond legislation, to individuals who need behavioral change and exert even more pressure on governments.
In the midst of Covid-19 pandemic the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres stressed the necessity of turning the recovery into an opportunity to do things right for the future, in his International Mother Earth Day message.
"The current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call"
The UN Secretary-General urged and thereafter called for six climate-related actions to mark the post-pandemic era: stimulus recovery packages should aim for a green transition and creation of clean, green jobs; taxpayers' money used to rescue businesses, must be tied to achieving sustainable growth; fiscal policies to shift from grey to green economy and empower societies; public funds to be invested in the future and to environmental projects, end of fossil fuel disrupting subsidies, and re-introduction of the 'polluter pays' principle; climate risks and opportunities to be incorporated into the financial system; and international cooperation. Furthermore, "the recovery should also respect future generations rights, enhancing climate action aiming at carbon neutrality by 2050 and protecting biodiversity", he said.
As mentioned above, climate change is a complicated issue that requires collective approach for being properly addressed. Governmental response has to be swift and decisive, covering the aspects that the UN Secretary-General brilliantly highlighted. The private sector has an ethical responsibility to shift towards more sustainable and fair practices, rely on clean, renewable energy, and commit to carbon neutrality targets. For becoming carbon neutral and minimizing their environmental impact, companies will also have to offset their emissions.
For us individuals, it is time to sit back and reflect on our daily choices. Consider our impact on this planet and embrace more sustainable lifestyles. Calculate our carbon footprint, reduce it, and compensate for any unavoidable emissions.
If anything the Covid-19 crisis has revealed is that there is a way where there is a [political] will. The way governments responded clearly showed the world what they are capable of. Climate change should be perceived as even more threatening; scientists and experts should be finally heard. The time to take action has come.