Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous parallels have been drawn between this health crisis and the climate crisis. Science plays an important role in advising decision makers on how to ensure sustainable crisis management and a precautionary approach to avoid harmful repercussions, particularly where we do not yet know all the consequences of our actions. Intergenerational solidarity also plays a meaningful role. Thanks especially to the Fridays for Future movement, 2019 was a key year for the younger generation to ask for solidarity from older ones in light of the tremendous effects of current and future climatic changes. Nowadays, the older generation can expect this kind of solidarity from the young generation, given their increased vulnerability to COVID-19-related risks.
Furthermore, the devastating effects of the Coronavirus illustrate how a world driven by great interconnectedness is vulnerable to even greater disruptions such as climate change—and how quickly this translates into a financial crisis. Global stock markets reported losses of USD 16 trillion in over the past month. Pressures in one region of the globe can significantly affect supply chains in others, causing massive systemic risks. COVID-19 has and will continue to have catastrophic consequences for people’s well-being. The impacts on human health and millions of unemployed people are a tragedy in itself. According to a recently published paper by UNU-WIDER, the economic impact of COVID-19 could increase global poverty for the first time in three decades, pushing an additional 420-580 million people into poverty.
Participants in political events also drew parallels between the two crises. During the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in April, for example, Svenja Schulze, German Federal Environment Minister, not only referred once again to the important task of listening to scientists. She and other colleagues from the Environment Ministries also stressed the need to link the recovery to the imperatives of decarbonisation and to forge green deals. This should guide countries through the process of recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis (whenever that may be). In addition to recovery, resilience-strengthening is a shared responsibility of both agendas – especially from a global perspective and with regard to countries in fragile contexts – as is also outlined in the United Nations report “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity”, published in March as an initial reaction to the health crisis.
There is an urgent need for both green recovery and strengthening of resilience. We dig deeper into these topics in this issue of the newsletter, with articles looking into compound crises in times of COVID-19 in countries such as Brazil, climate diplomacy lessons for tackling the health crisis, and coping with the pandemic’s impacts on fossil fuel markets.
Decarbonisation won’t come as fast as the pandemic. But if fossil fuel exporters are not prepared for it, they will face an enduring crisis. The EU can help.
Stories of clear skies and wildlife conquering urban areas might provide much needed comfort during these uncertain times as the health crisis unfolds. But in Brazil, where climate and environmental issues already lack attention and resources, the pandemic underscores the next crisis.
Solutions to the current COVID-19 crisis need to be aligned to those of the climate crisis for a global transformation towards more sustainability, resilience, equity, and justice. Climate diplomacy has the tools to achieve these objectives simultaneously.
In the central Sahel, states are mobilising to combat the impact of climate change as way of reducing conflict. But to respond suitably to growing insecurity, it is important to look beyond a simplistic equation linking global warming and resource scarcity to outbreaks of violence.