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Issue 94
, 2020
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* FEATURE

Is there any HOPE for our Better Future?

Shania Tahir
Source: Shania Tahir, Date: , 2020

We were expecting that 2020 was going to be a milestone year for the Climate Change Crisis as the countries were actively working on their NDCs for COP26. It was also the mid assessment year of the emission targets we set for 2030 in the 2015 Paris Agreement. We aspired to lower CO2 emissions to 45% of 2010 levels by 2030 to accomplish net-zero emissions by mid-century. But in a matter of months, the world has been transformed. Thousands of people have already died, and hundreds of thousands more have fallen ill from a previously unknown coronavirus. WHO announced it's a Pandemic, and the whole world is impacted in a way never imagined before.

With Governments trying to control the impact of the pandemic, using measures like social distancing, country lockdowns, curfews, grounding airplanes, and closing borders, we have seen a drop in Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that Global carbon dioxide emissions could fall 5% this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, amounting to the most substantial annual reduction on record. These emissions are not falling because of a technological change or a long-term behavioral change, but due to short-term government measures. Also, the impact of these reductions will not be visible soon, as CO2 is a long-lived gas.

The nature and amount of emissions can easily be related to economic growth, which is going to contract by 3% this year, as per IMF. But even with millions of people around the world stuck at home, the world economy is consuming vast quantities of fossil fuel and emitting large amounts of CO2. COVID 19 has impacted the world economy in an unprecedented manner, with rising deaths, widespread job losses, and business closures. Governments are now agreeing on an economic stimulus package to help people and corporations survive the likely recession. These packages must be used to kick-start a sustainable path towards a cleaner future. Governments need to back clean technologies and end subsidies to polluting industries. There are many opportunities to invest in low-carbon infrastructure projects that will create jobs and put the world on a safer, fairer, and more resilient path. 

Reduction in emissions is not sought at the cost of economic wellbeing. But Holding global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius requires annual emission reductions of 7.6% according to the United Nations' projections. Emissions from every country accumulate in the atmosphere independently of where they are released. Therefore, cuts will only be effective if all nations are on the same trajectory towards net-zero emissions by 2050. Such targets can be achieved only via structural change, which comes from transitioning our food patterns, the entire energy system, the type of vehicles we buy, the electricity we consume i.e., change in our lifestyle. We need to ensure that the good practices we incorporate during the pandemic, like traveling via bicycles in many cities to avoid congestion, are continued after the pandemic ends, and many more such practices are adopted.

The decisions we make now to tackle this imminent threat will affect us for generations to come, including our ability to halt global warming. There may not be any established link between COVID-19 and climate change. However, the way we are altering the planet will make the spread of some diseases more likely.

Economic progress aims to improve the standard of living of people, but the increasing disease burden pushes thousands into poverty each year. According to a WHO estimation, nearly a quarter of the global health burden (measured as loss from sickness, death, and financial costs) could be prevented by reducing the environmental and social risk factors that hamper the immunity of the population and make them susceptible to Diseases. Such Moments of crisis bring with them opportunities for change. Two of the most effective ways in which we can reduce the long-term health impacts and increase our resilience and adaptive capacity to both the coronavirus pandemic and climate change are creating a healthy environment for healthier populations and promoting a sustainable path for the economic progression. We have an opportunity to make a future where we not only survive but thrive together with nature.

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