COVID-19 and Climate

COVID-19 and Climate

Coronavirus is a real and pressing crisis. One which required and will continue to require a collaborative, intensive, and invested response from ourselves and our governments. In the face of this, we must remember that the climate crisis is similarly urgent and requires the same showing of solidarity seen throughout this pandemic. The solidarity seen across the globe as people refrained from seeing loved ones, stayed indoors, and sheltered our most vulnerable was a glimmer of light during this time of darkness. This kind solidarity, this unified change we all made in response to the pandemic, is desperately needed to combat climate change.

Unfortunately, many sectors are utilising the pandemic to renegotiate or to violate their obligations to cut emissions under the European Green Deal. For example, steel and cement corporations are lobbying the European Commission on emission allowances. Airlines are similarly using the recession caused by the virus to delay their climate targets.

In the face of this, the Green Deal is essential to provide a policy framework for a just recovery. A framework that will help us build back from the pandemic and the recession. We must ensure that the recovery of the economy is not prioritised above our ecosystem. The foundation of this recovery should be to combat climate change and further the new deal while still recognising the reality we are in. The Institution of European Environmental Policy recommends that we further Green Deal reforms while ensuring that a just transition is in place for those effected by these reforms and the pandemic. They recognise the importance of reaching those furthest behind first and by future proofing investments made during this time to ensure that our children will not pay the price.

On a government level, we must ensure that funding allocated to combating climate change in poor countries is not reallocated to fighting the coronavirus domestically. Jan Kowalzig, the senior climate policy advisor for Oxfam International said:

“Tackling the health crisis must be the priority, but governments cannot afford to ignore the escalating climate crisis wreaking havoc across the globe. Poor countries, struggling to cope with the devastating impacts of climate change, must now deal with the coronavirus as well. Severe drought is fueling hunger across Southern Africa and Central America, while vulnerable people from Bangladesh to Vanuatu face increasingly destructive storms. It is more important than ever that rich polluting countries deliver on their promises to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries cut emissions and adapt to a changing climate. Ministers must also ensure that economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic does not supercharge the climate crisis. They must build back better – more resilient low carbon economies - that deliver a safer and more secure future for all."

In Ireland, the presumptive government of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael published a draft document on a plan to recover, rebuild, and renew Ireland after the COVID-19 emergency. The document contained 10 missions ranging from healthcare to housing. It is promising that one of the missions directly addresses a New Green Deal and highlights the need for carbon reduction targets, just transition, and an increased carbon tax. It is fundamental that these are enshrined in law as soon as possible in light of the pandemic and recession. While many of the points on the draft documents are positive, we must future proof the planned investments, particularly around land development and infrastructure changes, to ensure that they are carried out through a green lens. Another point of note is that the draft document does not address Overseas Development Assistance or climate change spending internationally. As Kowlazig noted above, poorer countries need support to fight COVID-19 and combat climate change.

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