Thousands of health professionals call on world leaders to prioritize a greener future, post-pandemic

bycicle

(Coen van den Broek, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Harry Kretchmer, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • An open letter to G20 leaders calls for a ‘#HealthyRecovery’ from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • It’s signed by 350 organisations and over 4,500 individual health professionals from 90 different countries.
  • The signatories cite World Health Organization (WHO) data that air pollution is leading to millions of premature deaths.
  • Pollution has fallen dramatically during pandemic lockdowns and there are now attempts to convince leaders to lock-in environmental gains.

“Seven million premature deaths every year.”

That’s the consequence of business-as-usual economics, according to organizations representing over 40 million individual health professionals from around the world. Air pollution, they add, may have made the coronavirus outbreak worse.

In a letter to leaders of the G20 economies, the signatories urge a cleaner, greener and more equal society to be constructed in the shadow of the pandemic, to reap a potential dividend of almost $100 trillion.

The call comes as a study shows that dramatic CO2 falls in recent months could have little impact on climate change, if countries return rapidly to pre-lockdown ways.

The evidence

“We have witnessed death, disease and mental distress at levels not seen for decades,” the letter says. “These effects could have been partially mitigated, or possibly even prevented by adequate investments in pandemic preparedness, public health and environmental stewardship.”

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

Contact us to get involved.

The letter cites World Health Organization (WHO) evidence that air pollution is killing millions – more than 90% from low- and middle-income countries – through a mix of outside emissions like dirty industry and domestic causes like poorly-ventilated cooking.

Deaths from air pollution worldwide.
The WHO says air pollution causes 7 million deaths each year.
Image: Statista

While the links between pollution and COVID-19 are not yet fully understood, some researchers have found connections. A Harvard study has found that a small increase in long-term exposure to fine particulate matter leads to a large increase in the COVID-19 death rate. And a paper published by the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine identifies a possible link to atmospheric pollution.

The open letter also references studies showing how environmental degradation could increase the risk of life-threatening diseases.

Change in global daily fossil fuel CO2 emissions by sector.
CO2 emissions fell dramatically between March and April this year.
Image: Le Quéré/UEA/Nature Climate Change

An opportunity

At the same time, the pandemic lockdown has given a glimpse of a cleaner future.

Satellite images taken during lockdown showed how air pollution fell dramatically as nations put their economies on ice. This led to an estimated 17% fall in global CO2 emissions in early April at the height of restrictions, say climate researchers from the University of East Anglia in the UK.

However, the study also found that if pre-pandemic economic conditions resume by mid-June, the overall CO2 fall this year could be as low at 4% – less than the annual reduction needed to prevent significant climate warming.

This is the time to act, according to the open letter: by shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy, for example. This, the authors say, could yield a benefit for global GDP of $98 trillion over the next 30 years and help improve incomes for the poorest.

Visions of the future

There are signs that countries could be re-orientating their economies towards green growth. A number of cities – including New York and Barcelona – are dramatically increasing the pedestrianisation of streets to ease congestion and promote social distancing.

The question is whether such policies will become entrenched and lead to a step change in ‘green growth’.

The signatories of the letter have a suggestion that could help embed policy shifts at the highest levels: make chief medical officers and chief scientific advisors directly involved in the production of all economic stimulus packages.

And leaders would only be able to proceed if their newly empowered advisors “give their stamp of approval”.

“We must learn from these mistakes,” the signatories say, “and come back stronger, healthier and more resilient.” That is the challenge.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Economy on a steady rise in Latin America and Caribbean region ‘despite international turbulence’ – UN report

Women and leadership in Medicine: overcoming many barriers

EU and Australia launch talks for a broad trade agreement

Antitrust: Commission adopts guidance for national courts when handling disclosure of confidential information

World Cancer Day: Here’s how perceptions about the disease differ around the world

The world just took a step closer to eradicating polio

My twin from Guangzhou

Questions and Answers: the EU Code of Conduct on Responsible Food Business and Marketing Practices

This is what countries are doing to fight plastic waste

How the United States is falling in love with secondhand clothes

Statement by President Tajani on US steel and aluminium duties

How to build public trust in a sustainable energy future

The Parliament accuses core EU countries of exploiting their dominant political position

The Catcher in the Rice

These are 2021’s most innovative companies

“Cyber security is a shared responsibility: stop, think, connect”, a Sting Exclusive by EU Commissioner Gabriel

Successful third issuance of EU SURE bonds by the European Commission

From Kenya to China, here’s why countries should start working together on AI

Why rich countries are seeing more poverty

Amid pandemic detours, mental health matters

UN gears up emergency food aid for hurricane-struck region of Bahamas, as death toll rises

Can we automate our way out of the savings crisis?

These are the countries best prepared for health emergencies

India: step up reform efforts to increase quality jobs and incomes

Driving structural change through global value chains integration

Smart devices must come with trust already installed

Palliative care and terminality in graduation: a way to enhance access to health

Three ways to improve your corporate culture in the #MeToo era

Commission imposes a fine of €561 million on Microsoft

Heat-resistant crops, ‘green’ infrastructure, can prepare Near East and North Africa to better tackle droughts – UN agency

6 ways to drive funding to transform the fashion industry

COVID-19 creates a perfect storm for the extreme weather season

This year’s Earth Hour is going digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The importance of exchanges for the medical students of the world

“Hasta la vista” Google says to Spain and now Europe is next?

UN General Assembly President upholds value of multilateralism in speech closing annual debate

EU–Canada Summit: strengthening the rules-based international order

Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

Our Amazon is disappearing in ashes

Sex education: the application of sexual and reproductive rights in the fight against HIV

Political agreement on the Aarhus Regulation: Commission welcomes increased public scrutiny of EU acts related to the environment

What will education look like in 20 years? Here are 4 scenarios

Why developing new antibiotics is a matter of life and death

Macron in St. Petersburg didn’t oppose Trump on Iran, in Putin’s presence

UN-led Yemen ceasefire monitoring team gets ready to begin operations

EU funds must reach media and creative sector, say MEPs

A Sting Exclusive: Young people are right about climate change; it’s time to listen

Challenges that surround the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns

State aid: Commission approves 2022-2027 regional aid map for Czechia

Low productivity jobs continue to drive employment growth

UK and EU27 citizens in the UK to remain part of EP Communication programmes

Medical training without borders: what’s still missing?

Jade Spring Meeting 2017 – day 2: Coporate workshops, general assembly and magna moment

Commission pledges €100 million to help Mozambique recover from cyclones Idai and Kenneth

Amid ‘unprecedented combination’ of epidemics, UN and partners begin cholera vaccination campaign in DR Congo

Employment and Social Developments in Europe: 2018 review confirms positive trends but highlights challenges, in particular linked to automation and digitalisation

2 ways to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities

3 reasons why consumer demand matters for the post-COVID-19 recovery

Africa’s Sahel must be a top priority for UN peacebuilding efforts, says commission

Market design can help solve global water scarcity. Here’s how

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: