Part 3: A Climate of Change?

By Alison Taylor

April 22, 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, although it was eclipsed by pandemic news. When the environment has been in the media of late, it seems that stories have been lauding improvements in air quality in India and New York and water quality in Venice; the takeaway message is that the pandemic has allowed for “nature’s reset.” However, Inger Andersen, the head of the UN Environment Programme argues that COVID-19 is far from a silver lining for the environment. For one thing, the pandemic will result in an increase in medical and hazardous waste. Further, “fossil fuel use would have to decline by about 10 percent around the world, and would need to be sustained for a year to show up clearly in carbon dioxide levels.”[1] An Economist writer correctly says, “Covid-19 and climate change are both global problems, and proper responses to both require levels of co-operation that the countries of the world find hard.”[2] In particular, when countries like the US and China are unwilling to step away from carbon-intensive development,[3] it’s even more challenging.
So, what is to be done? Without a doubt, this is a topic, I need to learn more about, perhaps from EDST colleagues working in this area. COVID-19 has dramatically shown how interconnected our world is. At the same time, we see some countries acting in self-serving ways. This is a good time to provide critical analysis of the failings of economic globalization for many workers as well as for the environment. Action on the climate emergency can be spurred by increasing realization that, as a world, as well as in communities, “we’re in this together.”
COVID-19 has shown that changes in behaviour can be mandated and governments can play key roles in efforts to create sustainable changes in behaviour. When economic stimulus packages targeting infrastructure spending are designed, green packages of renewable energy investments, smart buildings, green transport, and so on, must be part of them. At a global level, help from rich countries to developing countries to adapt to inevitable climate change is also crucial. The slogan “together we can,” which has become so prominent during the COVID crisis, must be adapted to tackle the future of our planet for ourselves and our children.
[1] See story by UN News at:
[2] See article in The Economist, “An Earth Day in the life of a plague”:
[3] See BBC story by Roger Harrabin, “Coronavirus recovery plan ‘must tackle climate change’: