CCAC scientists put out call for comments on climate and clean air responses to COVID-19

Members of the CCAC’s Scientific Advisory Panel and Invited experts issued a call to the global scientific and policy community to come together and provide guidance and evidence to Build Back Better from the COVID-19 crisis.

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National lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed economic activity and resulted in lower air pollution in many parts of the world.

The COVID-19 crisis has upended the global economy, the way we work, the way we socialize, what we value, the way we learn, and many other aspects of our everyday lives. It has been catastrophic in many ways but also enlightening in many more. This crisis has shown us that billions of people are willing to make sacrifices for the common good. It has shown us how quickly air pollution levels can fall and how fast nature can bounce back if we stop polluting activities. And the crisis has enabled us to take a step back and look at changes that need to be made to benefit a greener economy, sustainable development, healthy ecosystems and a safer climate.

Members of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s (CCAC) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) and other experts have been thinking about the relationship between air pollution, climate change and COVID-19. How they impact each other, and how the crisis must influence climate and clean air policies going forward.

In a paper published by the International Journal of Public Health on May 26, CCAC scientists and experts said it is important to understand the links between air pollution and increased vulnerability to COVID-19 and to prudently consider improved air quality as an additional measure to help reduce the burden placed on healthcare systems. As policymakers and leaders look for guidance on how to build back quickly from this pandemic, they need concrete examples and supporting information about the transformations and investments needed to reduce emissions while stimulating the economy.

The authors identified solutions that deliver economic and social objectives while simultaneously protecting air and climate saying, “By addressing climate, air pollution, and sustainable development as an integrated problem, we can identify technologies, lifestyle changes, and policy solutions that achieve multiple near-term benefits efficiently, sustainably, and often at lower cost than solutions that don’t consider both the economy and the environment”.

The paper calls on the global scientific and policy community to come together and provide the guidance and evidence to help the world build back better and have asked them to comment on the following questions:

  • What role might air quality and climate policy, including short-lived climate pollutant policy, play in the recovery plans following the pandemic, including plans to speed the economic recovery?
  • What are the similarities and the difference between the pandemic and the risk from climate impacts, including the importance of being prepared for the risk and taking precautionary measures in advance of impacts; the non-linear nature of both risks; and the potentially catastrophic consequences for society, including our social, civic, and economic systems?
  • What can we learn from the communication of the respective risks of the pandemic, climate and air quality impacts?
  • The virus requires physical distancing and a radical alteration of our everyday social, economic and political lives, but it is also showing us how closely interconnected we are. We can now see, both as individuals and as a society, how capable we are of making major changes, if the safety and sustainability of our society is at stake. What can we learn from the response to covid-19, and previous shocks, which we can use for action on climate and air pollution?

COVID-19 has shown us that preparation and a fast and coordinated response is vital to success. We need to act fast, while also developing a long-term plan for success and to do this we need share information and technology honestly and openly. It has shown us that self-interest fails in the face of a global crisis. To succeed we need to all work together.

The CCAC works to reduce short-lived climate pollutants to rapidly reduce the rate of warming while supporting longer term efforts to reduce the impacts from long-lived greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. By reducing short-lived climate pollutants, we can rapidly flatten the climate curve, protect the most vulnerable and prevent dangerous climate feedbacks. The Coalition enables countries to work together and share knowledge and solutions.

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You can access the paper here: Call for comments: climate and clean air responses to COVID-19

Comments on the paper should be sent to: nathan.borgford-parnell@un.org and tiy.chung@un.org

See how the CCAC Secretariat is responding to COVID-19 here

The CCAC's Scietific Advisory Panel has also produced a Briefing on COVID-19 and Short-Lived Climate Pollutants and a Special Edition of its Research Digest, which collates emerging research into COVID-19; changes in emissions due to COVID-19; links between health, air pollution and COVID-19; and other relevant topics. 

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