Climate change should be treated as emergency like Covid pandemic, study says

Researchers highlight need to integrate recovery from coronavirus with environmental action

Greta Thunberg says world leaders are 'playing politics' on climate action

Climate change should be treated as an emergency in the same way as Covid-19, according to a new study.

Governments should keep the public informed about climate emergencies in the same way they have with data during the pandemic, research led by the Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) Centre for Climate Justice said.

The study comprised an online survey and interviews with participants from public, private and third-sector organisations in the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa.

Participants in the study observed that climate change, "despite being more deadly than the virus", has "failed to elicit the same level of urgency" among governments and civil society.

By focusing on the experiences of policymakers in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the study urged governments to continue real-time reporting about the loss of life and the damage caused by the impact of bad weather.

The research partners for the study also included the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and academic partners in Africa.

A key concern highlighted in the research included a fear that resources channelled towards the pandemic would minimise resources previously allocated for climate action.

The study said that industrialised nations should be encouraged to commit more financial and technology support to the developing world.

Researchers also looked at how the pandemic has affected the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – national plans for climate action submitted by countries under the Paris Agreement in 2015.

"Although Africa accounts for a very small portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, African governments are committed to doing their share in stopping the climate crisis," said GCU's Dr Sennan Mattar, working with Dr Michael Mikulewicz and partners from PACJA.

"However, many of their NDCs are conditional on receiving adequate financial support from industrialised nations,” Dr Mattar said, adding that it was crucial that NDC and development funding is not stopped or curtailed despite the economic fallout caused by the pandemic in wealthier nations.

The research found that the public health restrictions placed on gatherings and face-to-face contact for consultations “significantly delayed” the NDC development process.

Researchers said there is a need to integrate Covid-19 recovery with climate action.

"We are now past the point where we can address the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate emergency as separate crises," said Dr Mithika Mwenda, executive director of PACJA.

"This report shows that the pandemic has not only forestalled urgently needed action to halt and begin reversing global warming, but it has also worsened existing vulnerabilities to climate change, weakened the adaptive capacities of communities and countries, especially in Africa, and raised the cost of future climate action,” Dr Mwenda said.

"These plans must integrate the twin risks posed by Covid-19 and climate change by freeing up resources for the implementation of NDCs."

The data and recommendations will inform policymakers on how best to shape post-Covid-19 reconstruction on the continent and inform discussions ahead of the Cop26 UN climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow later this year.

Additional reporting by PA

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