Global leaders response to pandemic must include focus on climate action

Climate Action

Global leaders response to pandemic must include focus on climate action

Leading NGO, Amnesty International is urging world leaders to ensure that Covid-19 does not detract or delay urgent action against tackling the climate crisis. A  survey of over 10,000 young people released by the organisation before the pandemic indicated climate change as one of the most critical issues of our time.

Ashfaq Khalfan, the Law and Policy Director of Amnesty International, explains that they support all of the younger generation participating in climate action. Mr Khalfan states that children worldwide are experiencing significant disruption in their lives, education and health as a consequence of Covid-19 yet, many are aware of the implications of climate inaction on their lives and human rights.

2020 was regarded as the time of climate action, but it has instead transformed into the year of Covid-19. Khalfan highlights that the implications of the pandemic cannot be underestimated and recovering from this period will inevitably take some time. The concern for many, including Amnesty International is that climate action could be disregarded as we focus our efforts on the pandemic and the next stage of recovery. Covid-19 recovery plans have resulted in emission reduction targets declining, despite mounting evidence relating to the implications global warming has on accelerating disasters, diseases and other global impacts.

To limit global warming to pre-industrial levels and avoiding the most drastic impacts of climate change, governments agreed to announce their commitment and effectively manage the climate crisis. At present, only 12 nations have submitted their plans, with the end of year deadline looming. Current trends suggest that many of the leading western nations, ones that contribute some of the highest emission levels are lagging and are considering implementing measures that will decline the pace of climate action. Of the 12 nations who have submitted plans, only four of these were regarded as wealthy industrialised nations. 

The climate crisis is one of the biggest human rights issues impacting the rights of millions of people to food, water or healthcare. Millions of people are already suffering from the implications of climate change, such as the considerable floods affecting Bangladesh and the significant wildfire across the west coast of the USA.

Climate change has particular impacts on people and communities who are already disadvantaged or experiencing higher levels of inequality and injustice. Children with insufficient immune systems in marginalised communities are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of climate changes. This can include rising cases of malnutrition from changes in crop generation to increase the threat of diseases like malaria. 

As global leaders gather for the upcoming UN General Assembly, Amnesty International is calling on governments to position climate action and human rights at the core of their pandemic recovery plans. The NGO believes governments should be implementing plans to support and promote zero-carbon economies, eradicating bailouts and subsidies for fossil fuel businesses and instead investing in companies that generate a fair and equal transition towards a decarbonised economy.

The pandemic has shown us that governments are very capable of executing fast and decisive actions, exactly what is needed to address the climate challenge. People are prepared to accept protective measures enforced by the government to protect their communities. If governments are prepared to invest significant money into furlough schemes and business support, then there is a huge potential to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels.

Global leaders need to ensure they look beyond the initial impacts created from the pandemic and be prepared to commit to the long term implications and well-being of people worldwide. Covid-19 has forced many people to the very edge and has tested our resilience. It has, however, proven to show our creativity and determination in delivering a radically transformed future, one that is more equitable and sustainable for the next generation.

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