Green Living Association

COVID-19 and Environment

COVID-19 has changed the world, as, all countries and territories have registered corona cases, and the entire world is buzzing with uncertainty and fear. Undoubtedly, there are huge damaging impacts of coronavirus on the world markets and purchasing abilities of people. No doubt, there are devastating effects of coronavirus on the individuals’ and collective economies including damaging impacts on the states’ economies, stock markets, oil prices, travel industries, manufacturing industries and people’s buying power. Moreover, there are increasing physical and mental impacts of the pandemic on the vast majority of the world population and experts worry that people all over the world may be experiencing an increasing number of mental health issues.

Regardless of the crucial effects of coronavirus on the world population, there are certain advantages of the pandemic which have never been seen in the recent past. The most significant impact has been witnessed on the ever-deteriorating environment. Satellite images show the pollution levels have enormously decreased in the most polluted parts of the world, including the atmospheres of Lahore and Karachi, with reasonable reduction of the density produced by Nitrogen dioxide in the lower atmosphere.

One of the promising impacts of COVID-19 is that people are realizing giving preference to the universal and altruistic objectives of life over the short-term and self-oriented approaches of superseding others. At one hand the ongoing coronavirus onslaught has affected and threatened the entire world while on the other hand the pandemic represents as such a prospectively unifying force. As, numerous financial and medical experts are planning to overcome the economic and health related issues, the visionaries and dreamers of the future world are thinking to make the coronavirus pandemic a genuine source of long-sought human unity, peace and environmental conservation.

Not going back to the old ‘NORMAL’

The global community has shown that it can act to address a crisis, with governments, businesses and individuals taking measures and changing behaviours in response to the pandemic. When we work together, even small personal actions when put together, like physical distancing, can make a big difference, helping us to overcome huge challenges. We are learning how to contain the virus better and good progress is being made on vaccines. And while many countries continue to face long and difficult lockdowns, many are hopeful that the world can start returning to some semblance of normal next year.[1]

But we need to talk about “normal”. Normal helped create Covid-19 by eroding wild spaces and bringing people into closer contact with diseases that can transmit between humans and animals. So normal brought us more than one million people dead, livelihoods in ruins and the biggest global recession since the Great Depression.

Investments in nature

Normal is also a warming planet, with wildfires, storms, droughts and glacier melt intensifying. It is humanity altering three-quarters of the planet’s surface and placing the existence of one million species in doubt. It is our economies polluting the air, land and water.

Normal, therefore, is placing our future in doubt by damaging the health of our species, societies, economies and the planet. We cannot go back to our old ‘normal’. Instead we must go forward, charting a future where we focus our energies on building low-carbon, nature-positive economies and societies.

Financial reboot

Part of the change must come through pandemic recovery stimulus packages that align our economies with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and international processes that target healthy biodiversity. Over the next six to 18 months, governments are expected to inject trillions into pandemic recovery, on top of money already spent protecting people and jobs.

Early signs show we are not moving fast enough. The UN Secretary-General has noted that as of September, G20 countries had committed 50 per cent more funding to support fossil fuels than to low-carbon energy. He emphasised that “fossil fuel subsidies should have no place in any rational Covid-19 recovery plan”.

We need to invest much more in nature-based solutions, sustainable agriculture, renewables, conservation and green and blue infrastructure.

Such large-scale investments can bring massive returns. Between now and 2030, the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems could generate $9 trillion (£6.5 trillion) in ecosystem services and remove up to 26 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – more than last year’s global energy-related emissions.

The economic benefits are 10 times more than the cost of investment. To take advantage of these cost-benefit ratios, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration from 2021 will marshal the global community to restore degraded land, coasts and seas.

Private finance needs to get involved for great returns

Private capital must do its share of the heavy lifting which is futuristic as well as profitable. Investors can finance climate action to get great returns. Renewable energy and electric vehicles provide profitable avenues, while coal projects are increasingly seen as much less so. They must also look to biodiversity; we need the world to get behind the soon-to-be-agreed global framework to address its loss. Investors can look for biodiversity-positive investment opportunities and progress against targets – be they in agriculture, timber production, tourism or infrastructure.

Crucially, financiers need to set comprehensive sustainability targets that align entire portfolios with the Sustainable Development Goals. Target frameworks such as the Principles for Responsible Banking and the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance have already gathered hundreds of banks and institutional investors under commitments to transition their trillions of dollars of assets to low-carbon and nature-positive investments. We need many more.

There is hope in the next generation of investors. The Economist recently highlighted that 87 per cent of young investors believe corporate success should be measured by more than financial performance. They want a viable planet that can sustain them and generations to come, rather than returns generated from nature’s destruction. The investment community should take these young investors seriously.

Investing in a healthy planet is not philanthropy

Investments in nature and climate are, at heart, investments in our own prosperity. Over half of global GDP depends on nature to some extent. Our activities are eroding this economic base. To give just one figure, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found in 2018 that land degradation and biodiversity loss was costing the world 10 per cent of GDP each year in lost ecosystem services.

The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report ranked biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five threats humanity will face in the next 10 years, alongside extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, major natural disasters and human-made environmental damage and disasters. The financial implications for businesses and investors include reduced commodity yields, disrupted supply chains and the loss of potential sources of new products.

On the other hand, diverse ecosystems are more stable, productive and resilient to change. Just as diversity within a financial portfolio reduces risk, greater biodiversity reduces risks within a portfolio of natural assets. Overall, transforming the food, land and ocean use system could generate $3.6 trillion of additional revenues or cost savings by 2030, while creating 191 million new jobs.

When we invest in a healthy planet, we make a significant contribution to halting the three planetary crises – climate change, nature and biodiversity loss and pollution. We safeguard the future and safeguard the global commons for generations to come. We ensure that nature, our businesses, economies and societies thrive. That is the only kind of ‘normal’ we should all get behind.

The Role to be played by Young Children 

In a crisis, we must protect the most vulnerable. The last few years have seen young people around the world raising their voices on an unprecedented scale, asking adults and leaders to protect them from climate change. Now, by staying inside and taking their climate marches online, young people are showing solidarity with the older members of society, who are more vulnerable to the virus, by helping to stop the spread.

This kind of intergenerational solidarity is what solves crises. As the impact of climate change intensifies over time, it is the children and young people of today who will face its worst effects. Young people have been telling us that they are afraid of climate change with the same urgency as people now feel about COVID-19. This is a time for children and young people to talk with parents and grandparents, to discuss the kind of world we want to create when the pandemic has passed.

We can all play a part in spreading accurate facts and science, countering the misinformation that puts lives at risk.

Unite behind the science 

Both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic require us to listen to experts, to unite behind the science and not play politics with people’s lives. This means responding to the challenge at the appropriate scale and treating a crisis like a crisis with the urgency that’s needed. We can all play a part in spreading accurate facts and science, countering the misinformation that puts lives at risk.

Keep learning for a better tomorrow 

Due to COVID-19, over 1 billion children are being deprived of their education due to nationwide school closures. This risk creating a generation less equipped to take action on, or deal with the impacts of, the climate crisis.

But children and families are trying their best to keep learning. All children should be equipped with the resources, including remote learning and technology, to continue their education, even if they are not physically at school.

A good education is one of the most valuable tools we have to fight climate change, because it provides children and young people with the skills and knowledge they need to create a better tomorrow. We can help them use this time at home to build their strengths, their creativity, and their desire to confront any challenge.

[1] Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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