COVID-19 recovery must be a turning point for environmental protection, participants say in OSCE PA webinar

COPENHAGEN, 22 May 2020 – In developing COVID-19 recovery plans, policymakers have an opportunity to advance an agenda to protect the environment while creating new employment opportunities, participants said in the fourth OSCE Parliamentary Assembly webinar on the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic underscores the need to build a more environmentally responsible world, said OSCE parliamentarians, emphasizing that there is a growing understanding that environmental protection, public health and economic development are closely related.

The webinar on Friday examined the environmental aspects of COVID-19 with OSCE parliamentarians and experts from academia and the international community, who offered perspectives on how to ensure that recovery efforts prioritize the need to address climate change and promote biodiversity. Speakers stressed the need to invest in green technologies, transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, and adjust the economic development model in order to build resilience against similar public health crises in the future.

Doris BarnettDoris BarnettGerman parliamentarian Doris Barnett, the Chair of the OSCE PA’s economic and environmental committee, opened the event by noting that the pandemic requires policymakers to rethink old habits and adjust them appropriately. The model for economic development should be made more sustainable and safe, she said, pointing out that there are profound effects associated with pollution and environmental degradation. “This pandemic could be a turning point and should be a turning point,” she said.

“The one crisis that affects all of us right now is the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. “Policymakers across the globe are rightly focused on protecting public health, stabilizing economies, and helping those whose livelihoods are at stake. But if recovery from the crisis is to be sustainable – if our world is to become more resilient – we have to do everything we can to ensure a ‘green recovery.’”

Dr. Francesca Dominici, Professor of Biostatistics at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Co-Director of the Data Science Initiative at Harvard University, presented a detailed description of COVID-19’s health effects and noted that certain vulnerable populations – such as minorities and low-income groups – are at greater risk than others.

“Where we live, and how much money we make should not determine the quality of air we breathe,” Dr. Dominici said. “We all have a right to breathe cleaner air, and tighter not looser regulations will guarantee that.”

Susan GardnerSusan Gardner“The green shoots of nature have to be placed at the heart of any COVID-19 recovery plan,” said Susan Gardner, Director Ecosystems Division in the UN Environment Programme. “Investing in the health of our populations requires investing in the health of our planet if we are to genuinely build back better. This is critical if we are to reduce the risk not just of the next pandemic, but the looming threat of climate change and biodiversity loss. We simply can’t afford to fall back to sleep after this wake-up call.”

In the discussion, OSCE PA members highlighted the links between environmental degradation and public health, explored opportunities for targeted “green” policy interventions in response to the ongoing crisis, and debated ways to better protect the environment in order to enhance human security.

Participants said that a healthy planet is key to the ability to rebound from the current crisis and prepare for future pandemics. Habitat encroachment has brought wild animals and people closer together, which, together with diminished biodiversity, increases the likelihood of new viruses infecting human populations, it was noted.

It was also highlighted that the COVID-19 lockdowns have been accompanied by declining air pollution and decreasing C02 emissions in cities around the world, with parliamentarians wondering if this momentum can be sustained in promoting sustainable economic recovery. Attention was drawn to the links between the influence of money in politics and the lack of decisive action on environmental issues such as climate change, as well as the need to rethink government subsidies to polluting industries.

Albanian parliamentarian Elona Gjebrea Hoxha, the Rapporteur of the OSCE PA’s economic and environmental committee, concluded with remarks saying that the pandemic has reminded us of severe health implications brought by inadequate environmental protections. More green recovery can be achieved with strong international co-operation in OSCE region, she stressed.

There were more than 100 participants, including some 40 OSCE parliamentarians, who took part in the Parliamentary Web Dialogue. It was moderated by OSCE PA Senior Advisor Marco Bonabello and included remarks by OSCE PA President George Tsereteli and Secretary General Roberto Montella.

Photos of the webinar are available on Flickr.

For video of the event, please check this space.

For more on the OSCE PA's response to the COVID-19 crisis, please click here.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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