Climate change should be treated as an emergency like COVID-19, study says

09 09 2021 | 12:24

The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency can no longer be seen as separate crises, researchers say.

Climate change should be treated with the same urgency as the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study.

The study, which was led by the Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) Centre for Climate Justice, reported concerns that resources used for the pandemic response would detract from those allocated to climate action.

It said that the recovery from COVID-19 should be integrated with tackling climate change and that the public should be able to see climate data as easily as they were able to see data on the coronavirus.

This would include real-time reporting of deaths and damage caused by adverse weather.

The research consortium included the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) along with academic partners in Africa, and it focused on the experiences of policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Researchers reviewed literature, an online qualitative survey and interviews with public, private, and third-sector organisations in the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa.

A number of those interviewed said that climate change, "despite ultimately being more deadly than the virus", had "failed to elicit the same level of urgency" among governments and civil society.

Researchers also looked at how the pandemic affected the implementation of plans for climate action submitted by countries under the 2015 Paris Agreement. These are known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Dr Mithika Mwenda, executive director of PACJA, said: "We are now past the point where we can address the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency as separate crises.

"This report shows that the pandemic has not only forestalled urgently needed action to halt and begin reversing global warming, but it has also worsened existing vulnerabilities to climate change, weakened the adaptive capacities of communities and countries, especially in Africa, and raised the cost of future climate action.

"We, therefore, cannot have pandemic recovery plans that serve as excuses to further delay ambitious climate action.

"To be deemed successful, these plans must integrate the twin risks posed by COVID-19 and climate change by freeing up resources for the implementation of NDCs."

The study will be used to inform discussions ahead of COP26, the UN climate change conference in Glasgow later this year.

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