World health groups call for green coronavirus recovery

A coalition of global healthcare organisations, backed by more than 40 million healthcare professionals, have coordinated a written plea to governments to deliver health-based and climate-focused economic recoveries from the coronavirus pandemic.

World health groups call for green coronavirus recovery

The health organisations are the latest to call for a green recovery

Backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Global Climate and Health Alliance and campaign group Every Breath Matters, a letter has been sent to world leaders calling for the creation of a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter calls on world leaders to “learn from the mistakes” of the 08/09 financial crisis, whereby fossil fuels were locked into the economy. Signatories to the letter believe that the economy can bounce back “stronger, healthier and more resilient”.

One of the major question marks of a post-pandemic recovery is whether fossil fuels will be locked into the global economy, or if measures can be implemented to incentivise carbon-intensive industries to decarbonise.

Global carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry are projected to fall by a record 2.5 billion tonnes in 2020, equating to a 5% reduction. Bailout packages for the industry have already been discussed in the US, and similar bailouts are being prepared for the aviation industry.

Signatories of the letter account for more than half of the global healthcare workforce and calls for investments that protect and prioritise public healthcare and medical jobs, while also calling for green approaches to energy, transport and agriculture. It is believed that greener approaches will help phase-out polluting fossil fuels and improve air quality and public health as a result.

WHO’s director of climate change, environment and health Dr Maria Neira said: “It is inspiring to see the millions of nurses, doctors, and health workers, who are leading us through this defining health crisis of our time, equally speaking up to call for a healthy long-term recovery from Covid-19.

“Their letter to G20 leaders is fully in line with the WHO manifesto for a healthy and green recovery, namely: 1) Protect and preserve the source of human health: Nature. 2) Ensure essential services, from water and sanitation, to clean energy in healthcare facilities: 3) Invest in the energy systems of the future, not the past. 4) Build healthy, liveable cities. 5) Promote healthy, sustainable diets. 6) Stop using taxpayers money to fund pollution.”

Organisations backing the letter include the International Council of Nurses, the World Organisation of Family Doctors and the World Federation of Public Health Associations.

Emissions opportunity

New research has suggested that daily global carbon emissions recorded in April 2020 were 17% lower compared to the same month last year, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic and forced lockdowns and postponement in production.

Already, businesses, NGOs and academics have called for a green recovery that would allow for reduced emissions alongside economic growth.

More than 150 business giants, including Carlsberg, H&M and Pernod Ricard, with a combined market capitalisation of more than $2.4trn, have signed a joint statement calling on all governments to align coronavirus economic responses to climate science.

The companies, which also include Coca-Cola European Partners, JLL and Sky, are calling for policies that will build resilience against future climate shocks and risks by supporting the ambitions of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to within 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This, in turn, would support a global transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 – the date of the UK and EU’s net-zero targets.

Matt Mace

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