A speedy recovery from economic and social devastations wrought by COVID-19 pandemic will be realized upon greater commitment to restore degraded habitats and act on the climate crisis, a senior UN Environment Program (UNEP) official has said.
Inger Andersen, the executive director, UNEP said that pandemic recovery will only be sustainable and inclusive if governments and industry invest in programs that promote the health of planetary resources.
“What the pandemic has taught us is that there is no such thing as an environmental issue or a health issue,” Andersen said during a recent interview ahead of the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly to be held virtually from Feb. 22 to 23.
Pandemic recovery and stimulus packages can indeed if deployed appropriately lead us to an inclusive and sustainable future,” she added.
The first-ever virtual global environmental assembly whose theme is “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goal”, will take place against a backdrop of efforts to hasten a post-pandemic recovery of economies and livelihoods.
Andersen said the summit presents an opportunity for governments, private sector and lenders to focus on investments that guarantee a sustainable, inclusive and green recovery from the pandemic.
“The Assembly will also provide a space for Environment Ministers to engage in building an inclusive and sustainable post-pandemic world,” said Andersen.
She said that national governments had by September 2020 spent nearly 12 trillion U.S. dollars on post-pandemic economic recovery, adding that only a fraction of that amount was channelled towards low carbon development.
Andersen said that stimulus packages from national treasuries combined with private sector capital should be harnessed to boost action on the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and waste pollution that are harming planetary health.
She said that eliminating subsidies to the fossil fuel industry while scaling up investments in renewable energy should be at the heart of green recovery programs to help countries achieve carbon neutrality as outlined in the Paris climate deal.
Andersen said that restoring degraded ecosystems while limiting greenhouse gas emissions could strengthen communities’ resilience against pandemic-related shocks.