There is an emerging debate on how recovery strategies to the coronavirus pandemic may promote or undermine climate action and addressing the inequalities within our society. The Centre for Climate Justice in partnership with Chatham House recently hosted a webinar to start a conversation on tackling climate change in a world after coronavirus.
The webinar included presentations from the Centre for Climate Justice, Chatham House and CEMVO Scotland, as well as breakout rooms for the participants to contribute their ideas and thoughts. There were over 200 registered attendees to the webinar from 38 countries that spanned the Global North and South.
Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of the Centre for Climate Justice, began the webinar with an overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in slowing global greenhouse emissions – but also the human costs, particularly in the developing world, that have come with poor health and job losses. Dr Sennan Mattar, Researcher at the Centre, spoke of an example; coronavirus and climate change intersect as lockdown restrictions on agricultural labour and goods, and extreme weather damaging crops, undermine food systems for vulnerable countries and communities. Tahseen continued and said we must recognise that social and climate inequalities exist; the poorest and most vulnerable are disproportionately affected by both climate change and Covid-19. As such, it is critical for climate justice to be placed at the centre of recovery strategies and not allow this pandemic to detract from climate programmes. This calls for radical and ambitious thinking, and embracing inclusivity, voice, representation, and participation, as well as building interdisciplinary partnerships.
Dr Patrick Schröder, Senior Research Fellow of the Energy, Environment and Resources Programme at Chatham House, talked about international efforts in ensuring recovery strategies are sustainable and just. Patrick remarked that more than $20 trillion in funding initiatives for recovery have been announced, and that the UN has sent a clear message that the COVID-19 recovery must drive a shift towards a green economy. Yet, the SDGs are failing in relation to key goals such as poverty eradication, equality, and climate change. In addition, just transition principles have yet to be applied to climate and development finance mechanisms – as well as COVID-19 recovery. As such, it is important that institutions be transparent and accountable to ensure funds for a just transition reach the intended communities, as well as recalibrate climate action and development efforts in response to COVID-19.
Zarina Ahmad, Climate Change and Environment Officer at CEMVO Scotland, explained how narratives, such as “We are in this together”, used by politicians and media are dismissive and under play the reality of the stark inequalities in society which have become even more apparent during this pandemic. In order to dismantle the drivers of the climate crisis, or any global crisis, Zarina made the case we need to dismantle the systems that uphold white supremacy and make a profit off the backs of black, brown and indigenous people. This calls for any recovery strategy to have social and climate justice at their heart to ensure existing inequalities in society are recognised, addressed, and tackled. This will require true participatory consultation with a broad and diverse community, and actions from such consultation should be implemented when developing post-pandemic recovery strategies.
Three breakout rooms were organised to discuss the following questions:
- How do we ensure the transition out of this crisis to a new normal is done in a manner that is equitable, fair and climate just for all?
- How do we support international efforts to build resilient, sustainable local economies in the era of climate change?
- How do we build back better to ensure inclusivity?
Common themes that emerged from participants was 1) the need for more positive messaging on climate action, building back better and climate justice, 2) the creation of metrics and methods to measure progress on a just transition, and 3) valuing and supporting local leadership and diverse voices in knowledge exchange, policy development and action on coronavirus and climate change.
This webinar sparked some fascinating debate and the Centre for Climate Justice, along with our partners, are looking at how we can take these discussions further and involve a wider audience. If you wish to join the debate, you view the full presentations by clicking here and submit your own thoughts through this survey.