The year 2020 was momentous since the world came face to face with COVID 19 which brought many human activities to a halt. The most significant aspect of COVID-19 is that in less than a year, it spread to nearly every country on Earth, with catastrophic consequences. The pandemic threatens the health, economies, societies and survival of people around the globe. By December 2020 over 53 million people worldwide had contracted the COVID 19, over 1.2 million people had died from the virus, and many countries’ economies were in shambles.
There is a general realization that COVID 19 is not going away soon, and that new approaches are needed during recovery process as well as to build resilience against future pandemics. This has prompted countries to develop and publish post COVID 19 recovery plans. These strategies document the actions to be taken by affected sectors such as markets, businesses, schools and other institutions, livelihoods, household food security among others. The strategies have prioritized interventions to assist the most vulnerable communities, reduce existing inequalities, promotion of resilience to climate change including embracing green and circular economies.
From an environmental sustainability perspective, analysis of COVID-19 pandemic suggests that it is not a natural disaster (such as earthquake) but a crisis that integrates natural and social systems at a global scale. Its dynamics suggests an interplay of a set of interlocking stressors including changing environmental factors (e.g. land use change, urbanization); changing socio-economic factors (e.g. poor public health services, increased travel); and changing viral profiles (e.g. changes in drug resistance, emergence of new viruses) (GEF, 2020). Hence the Post COVID-19 recovery plans address these interlocking stressors.
The UN Secretary-General has provided guidelines to assist countries in drafting the post COVID 19 recovery strategies. Some of the proposed climate positive actions to be prioritized by governments in their plans to rebuild their economies and societies include the following:
- Green transition whereby investments must accelerate the decarbonization of all aspects of their operations.
- Promote green jobs, sustainable and inclusive growth
- Enhance green economy by making societies more resilient through a transition that is fair to all and leaves no one behind.
- Invest in sustainable solutions whereby polluters must pay for their pollution.
- Confront all climate risks
- Cooperation whereby all countries work collaboratively.
It is therefore evident that environmental and sustainable development considerations present a new opportunity as countries heal from the COVID 19 pandemic. This is unlike the past when socio economic considerations took the lion share of attention in investment priorities. Restoring a healthy environment is the foundation of social and economic health. Hence the post COVID 19 recovery strategies provide new opportunities for shaping the 21st century economies towards clean, green, healthy, safe and more resilient growth which is a systemic shift towards sustainable economy that brings benefits to both people and the planet.
Global Environment Facility, 2020 white paper on a GEF COVID -19response strategy, 59th GEF Council Meeting, GEF/C.59/Inf.14 November 17, 2020
United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Downloaded at https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/climate-change/ on 27th December 2020