Richa Gunawat(Research Intern)
"COVID-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term," – Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary.
Throughout history, the earth's atmosphere has undeniably changed adversely. And one most significant reason behind it is carbon emission, which is one of the primary greenhouse gases. These gases have their impact on the environment based on three factors which are- quantity in the atmosphere; how long do they stay in the atmosphere; and how strongly do they impact the atmosphere.
With the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), many countries have resorted to lockdowns to control its outbreak or in other words, flatten the curve of infection. With no doubt, it has raised questions on the health security of citizens and economic loss of respective countries. Due to the lockdown, almost all of the citizens are confined at their homes resulting in ceasing down of almost all economic activities. And with this havoc, the global economy has been pushed towards recession. In the United States, millions of people have filed for unemployment benefits. In April, the statistics showed about 20.5 million and is expected to get worse with the COVID crisis. And according to the Reuters report, since March 21, more than 36 million have filed for unemployment benefits, which is almost a quarter of the working-age population.
Furthermore, according to IMF (International Monetary Fund), the manufacturing output in Many countries across the world has fallen resulting in a fall in both external as well as domestic demands. The estimate of economic growth by -3% by IMF in 2020 is a far worse situation than the 2008-09 crises.
Along with the health issues of citizens and economic loss, COVID 19 also raises critical questions regarding the climate security. A COP26 UN Climate change conference, which was scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November, has also been postponed due to COVID 19.
An international study published in the UK-based journal National Climate Change showed that the world experienced a sharp decline in carbon emissions between January and April, compared to average levels in 2019, and could decline anywhere between 4.4 percent to 8 percent by the end of this year. During this pandemic, the carbon emission rate has surely fallen but it is just a temporary situation and the emission might increase in the future. Thus, this situation requires detailed scrutiny on it.
As discussed above, the world is facing an economic crisis and to revive its economy it will require increasing the level of carbon emissions to run its economy generating activities. Further, with the countries priority being economic upliftment it is difficult to assume that the countries will comply with the required target reduction of emission.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned the world about severe repercussions if the global temperature is even slightly raised by 1.5 degrees Celsius. The greater part of the world has already experienced impacts of climate change such as an extreme change in weather patterns, a rise in sea level, melting of glaciers, etc. In a time like this, where countries are expecting a major economic loss; their first priority will be to revive its economy, and to achieve that, they will harm the environment by increasing carbon mission and this will lead to misfortune to the climate.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the US emits more than 80% of total greenhouse gas in the U.S.In 2010, a Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to fund developing countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emission and to enhance their capacity to deal with climate change. Further, GCF plays a vital role in serving the Paris Agreement, by supporting the objective of keeping normal worldwide temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. It does this by directing climate funds to developing countries, which have joined different countries in focusing on climate affecting activities. In 2014 GCF gathered pledges worth USD 10.3 billion which come mainly from developed countries and few developing countries. But in reality, the developing countries didn’t even get half the worth of amount pledged and due to COVID 19; it has been delayed for more time.
According to the data compiled by the International Energy Agency and Forbes, the top three countries which emitted carbon in 2017 are China (6.38 tones of per capita), United States(16.24 tones of per capita) and India(1.84 tones of per capita). Recently in 2017, the US has declared withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, which is the only existing global emission reduction agreement. And the US is the second-largest carbon emitter country in the world, all the responsibility to reduce emissions fall within the other country's hands.
COVID 19 is the cue for the society that dominant states like the United States are a hindrance to an international organization. Since the climate is something that requires coordination of all countries or in other words, it requires multilateral arrangements. And if multilateralism decreases then post COVID we will have to face drastic consequences against combating climate challenges. Thus the only solution to combat climate change is to strengthen international institutions and complying with international agreements.
COVID 19 is indubitably reshaping globalization and multilateral world order which holds essential inference for climate change. For instance, America’s first policy under Trump’s presidency has majorly led various refugees and migrants to have a sense of fear. And due to COVID 19 majority of countries have closed their borders for outsiders leaving people unemployed.
Thus it can be concluded that effective policies are essential to forestall the possibility of worse outcomes, and the necessary measures to reduce infection and protect lives are an important investment in long-term human and economic health. Because the economic fallout is sensitive in specific sectors, policymakers will need to implement substantial targeted fiscal, monetary, and financial market measures to support affected households and businesses domestically. And internationally, strong multilateral cooperation is essential to overcome the effects of the pandemic, including helping financially constrained countries facing twin health and funding shocks, and for channelling aid to countries with weak health care systems.
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