Covid19 has provided temporary relief, but not cancelled climate change
In a webinar co-hosted by the Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the European Union, the Environmental Bureau and FIPRA International on July 16, the esteemed panel discussed the impact that Covid19 measures have on our health and our environment.
The event ‘Lessons learned: tackling pollution for a green recovery‘ considered what lessons we can learn from the current situation and how those lessons inform future policies to decarbonize and detoxify our economies and societies.
Air pollution rates are recovering to their old numbers. What it takes to keep momentum is global leadership. Global policies really can have an effect.– Pieternel Levelt
Pieternel Levelt, professor at the Technical University of Delft, presented satellite pictures that show sharp air pollution drops during lockdown. She made a case for pollution rates to remain low. In the short term, this will have positive effects on life expectancy. In the long term (decades), this might mitigate climate change.
“Satellite pictures, however, show that air pollution rates are recovering to their old numbers. What it takes to keep momentum is global leadership. Global policies really can have an effect, the Montreal Protocol being an example,” Levelt said.
Leonardo Trasande, professor at the New York School of Medicine, says pollution makes us more vulnerable to Covid19. Scientists found an 8% increase in mortality for each microgram of fine particulate matter. Exposure to synthetic chemicals does not make treatment easier, causing disruptions to hormone and immune systems.
Pollution makes us more vulnerable to Covid19. To truly grasp the cost of inaction, we need more data. Without data, we fly blind.– Leonardo Trasande
Policy makers must act. Not doing so will come at great cost. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) cost 163 billion euros annually (1.2% of the European GDP). This figure is based on less than 5% of known EDCs, meaning it is an underestimate. To truly grasp the cost of inaction, we need more data. Without data, we fly blind, Trasande underlined.
What we need is for different policy fields to interact with each other and for the European Green Deal to be implemented, flanked by an ambitious green investment program.– Hans Bruyninckx
Hans Bruyninckx, executive director of the European Environmental Agency, says that the positive environmental effects of lockdown can be seen across the board. In addition, we learned a thing or two about our own vulnerability and our disturbed relation with nature.
However, lockdown is not the way to reach long-term sustainability because the cost to society is way too high. What we need is for different policy fields to interact with each other and for the European Green Deal to be implemented, flanked by an ambitious green investment program. “If policy makers do not do it now, society will have to pay twice; once to climb out of this economic crisis and once when the economy is back to normal,” Bruyninckx said.
Veronica Manfredi, Director Quality of Life at the European Commission, highlights that epidemiologists had been warning us about the risk of a pandemic for years, due to our completely rotten relationship with nature. Ideally, we would have been better prepared. We must do better in the future and act now to prevent future disasters.
Covid19 has not canceled climate change and as such has not solved the root of the problem. We need to act now for a healthy planet. It sounds a little bit naive and idealistic, but this is exactly what we need. We have the money and we have the brains. Now let’s do it.– Veronica Manfredi
On behalf of the Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the European Union, the Environmental Bureau and FIPRA International, we thank you for your interest in our event. We plan to organize another webinar in July in which we will dive deeper into the European Chemical Strategy for Sustainability – due to be presented in September 2020.