by André Francischetti Moreno
“Nature is healing!” After several images showing how nature was positively responding to the absence of people due to isolation and lockdown measures, this saying became recurrent in many countries. Pictures of wild animals reclaiming urban spaces and even dolphins swimming in the Venetian channels were shared on social media. Although most of these reports were fake news (including, for our misfortune, the dolphins replacing the gondola in the Gran Canale), two questions gained place: Did the Coronavirus crisis have any positive impact on nature? And if so, will this effect be long-standing?
As a matter of fact, social isolation and the fall of industrial production massively impacted the emission of greenhouse gasses. While two-thirds of the global air fleet are at standstill, in cities such as Rome and Milan the traffic fell by 85% from its normally expected levels (a pattern which is mirrored around the world), and the amount of coal used in the power industry plummeted. In fact, the International Energy Agency announced that the global energy demand will fall by 6% in 2020, causing serious damage to the gas and oil industry, while for coal the value hits 8% (a number that was not seen since World War II). Already considering the possible economic recovery in the second semester, this would lead to a decrease of 0.3% in the global carbon emission. In comparison, the great financial crisis of 2008/2009 led to a dip of 1.3% in anthropogenic emissions. By 2010, however, with many countries investing in their industries at levels never seen before, the emission of anthropogenic gases went off. The situation became so critical that in many Chinese cities, people were recommended to use masks due to poor air quality.
From now on, governments will and should do anything to recover their economies as efficiently as possible, as well as foster transnational cooperation for this being essential in dealing with growing global problems i.e. global warming. Nevertheless, it is necessary that both officials and citizens take this moment of society restructuring as an opportunity to cause a real and long-standing positive impact on the environment. Particularly, recent actions by the European Union institutions toward this goal should be given attention, so as to give an example of how economic and environmental recovery can be joined in an integrative manner.
In April, the European Parliament indicated that the Commission should propose a recovery and reconstruction package which had the Green Deal at its core. Namely, the European Green Deal is a proposal issued by the European Commission in December 2019 that aims to turn Europe into a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Much more than a target, it envisages a thorough transformation of the economy by changing, for instance, industrial tools, promoting clean mobilization means, and renewable energy sources. Furthermore, its strategies, such as the Biodiversity Strategy, plan to restore by 2030 damaged ecosystems, protected habitats and species, and European forests (the goal is to plant more than three billion trees). On March 4th, the European Climate Law proposal, which seeks to legally bind countries to the European Green Deal, was presented in the European Parliament and is already endorsed by a vast number of MEPs.
Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, pointed out that one should face the challenge of rebuilding the economy as an opportunity of making it more sustainable and resilient. She also called attention to the importance of individual changes of actions such as buying sustainable products, re-using old materials, buying electric cars, and even renovating each one’s house by adding ecological systems. The European Green Deal is being called ‘the motor for Europe’s recovery’ and needs to be treated as such from the individual, to the governmental, to the international domain. The nations of the world should plan their own green strategies while reconstructing their economies because nature is at a breaking point. Based on the practical idea that all industries depend greatly on nature, the economy will never heal toward a sustainable stage, if nature itself does not.
EU Circular Economy Action Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm
EU COVID-19 recovery plan must be green and ambitious, say MEPs: News: European Parliament. (2020, April 21). Retrieved from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20200419IPR77407/eu-covid-19-recovery-plan-must-be-green-and-ambitious-say-meps
Has coronavirus helped the environment? (2020, April 23). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200422-how-has-coronavirus-helped-the-environment
Ludden, J., & Brady, J. (2020, April 30). Greenhouse Gas Emissions Predicted To Fall Nearly 8% – Largest Decrease Ever. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/30/848307092/greenhouse-gas-emissions-predicted-to-fall-nearly-8-largest-decrease-ever
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