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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Open letter from World Health leaders to G20 leaders states that addressing climate change is key to a global revival

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/26/world-health-leaders-urge-green-recovery-from-coronavirus-crisis

Doctors and medical professionals from around the globe have called on world leaders to ensure there is a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis which takes account of air pollution and climate breakdown.

More than 200 organisations representing at least 40 million health workers – making up about half of the global medical workforce – have signed an open letter to the G20 leaders and their chief medical advisers, pointing to the 7 million premature deaths to which air pollution contributes each year around the world.

Chief medical officers and chief scientific advisers must be directly involved in designing the stimulus packages now under way, the letter urges, in order to ensure they include considerations of public health and environmental concerns. They say public health systems should be strengthened, and they warn of how environmental degradation could help to unleash future diseases.

The signatories also want reforms to fossil fuel subsidies, with public support shifted towards renewable energy, which they say would make for cleaner air, cut greenhouse gas emissions and help to spur economic growth of nearly $100tn in the next three decades.

In the letter, the health professionals link air pollution and fragile public health systems with the impacts of the virus, saying air pollution “was already weakening our bodies”, exacerbating the impact of the disease.

Better preparation could have reduced the impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the letter. “We must learn from these mistakes and come back stronger, healthier and more resilient,” they write.

Better preparation could have reduced the impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the letter. “We must learn from these mistakes and come back stronger, healthier and more resilient,” they write.

Studies have suggested that air pollution may play a role in worsening Covid-19 symptoms or increasing mortality, though scientists also say it is too early to draw hard conclusions about the full impacts. The clearing skies that have accompanied lockdown in many countries are under threat, however, as industrial activity resumes without new safeguards.

Last week a comprehensive study found daily carbon dioxide emissions around the world had fallen by about 17% as a result of the lockdowns, and that if normal activity resumed there would be only about a 4% fall for the full year, compared with last year. Such a fall would make little difference in the climate crisis.

The signatories include the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation, the World Organization of Family Doctors and the World Federation of Public Health Associations, as well as thousands of individual health professionals.

The letter has been sent to all G20 leaders, including Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping, who are under pressure to approve a green recovery, as well as those who have been criticised for a lax approach to the crisis or for using it to weaken environmental protections, including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro.



 


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The G20 summit, the European heatwave and the lack of international progress on climate change

A heatwave spread across Europe this last week; thermometers soared past 40C as temperatures broke new records. Schools close to Paris were forced to close; Germany introduced speed restrictions on its autobahns; and a Spanish meteorologist tweeted a map of the country’s weather forecast with the caption: “Hell is coming.”

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Temperatures are also running high in the climate change debate ahead of the G20 meeting in Osaka. Japan is set to omit references to “global warming” and “decarbonisation” from a G20 communiqué in a bid to please the US. This comes just days after four central European states — Estonia, Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria — stopped the EU from committing to a 2050 net zero carbon emissions target last week.

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Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is trying to prevent the publication of  the IPCC Report. Last week Republican senators in Oregon fled the state to block the passage of a landmark bill that would commit the state, like neighbouring California, to ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. School strikes by teenagers and direct action, such as that by Extinction Rebellion, who demand governments “tell the truth”, have become a regular occurrence in recent months.  Yet, international progress on fighting climate change is in danger of stalling.  Bold and decisive leadership is needed if temperatures are to be prevented from rising to catastrophic levels. Countries that depend on fossil fuels will ultimately face a choice between foot-dragging or being left behind by technological progress. Renewables are often beating traditional sources on cost as well as on carbon emissions. Blocking international agreements will not keep coal viable.

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Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, is rightly making a stand. He has pledged to refuse to sign any G20 communiqué that leaves out a reference to the 2015 Paris agreement on combating climate change.

Bottom-up pressure seems to be working where top-down international conferences stumble. Green parties were big gainers in last months’ European Parliament elections. France and Britain are pushing ahead on their own with net zero targets; Bavaria, a German state not usually known for its radicalism, is going further than the national government to end the use of coal. In the US, city mayors and state governments are stepping in to compensate for the lack of federal government action. Britain, France and California are all relatively large economies but ultimately tackling climate change will depend on action by the largest emitters — China, the US, India and the EU.

This makes global co-operation essential, despite some countries blocking progress since the Paris accord. Governments will need to step up just to meet the Paris targets in coming years. It means being honest with companies, workers and taxpayers about the costs. Spain’s programme to phase out coal, which involved early retirement for miners and payments to coal-dependent regions, provides one model for a so-called “just transition” which spreads costs fairly. Frustrating international agreements can do nothing but delay the inevitable.

The reality of climate change will catch up with politicians. That may be in the form of angry voters on the streets, or of extreme weather that makes cities uninhabitable and crops fail. As fugitive Oregon senators and G20 leaders in Osaka will eventually find, running away is not an option.

See also:  https://on.ft.com/2KJQuB4