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Earth Day 2020: What We Can Learn from COVID-19 for Climate Action

Clear water is seen in the canals of Venice due to fewer tourists and motorboats as a result of COVID-19. Photo Credit: Manuel Silvestri / Reuters
April 22, 2020

The theme of this year’s 50th anniversary of Earth Day is climate action. As we mark the occasion amid the changes of life during COVID-19 — which has provided a reprieve on our planet in many ways, from drastically reduced greenhouse gas emissions to the return of wildlife in unusual places — we know we still have a colossal challenge ahead of us if we are to ensure a sustainable future for our planet and humanity.

While it can be hard to think about anything but making it through this pandemic, we must not forget the record-breaking fires and floods we experienced over the last year, from Australia to Indonesia. COVID-19 has reminded us of the fundamental interconnectedness of all life on Earth; in addition to belonging to each other and our communities, we also belong to this planet and to nature. This relationship of humankind and nature must be rooted in reciprocity and respect, wherein we are mindful of the impact our actions have on this planet. This pandemic has demonstrated the enormity of the collective effort required to achieve meaningful change and also, why urgent climate action is more important than ever. 

Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and co-founder of Global Optimism, shared “5 Lessons From Coronavirus That Will Help Us Tackle Climate Change,” in TIME

  1. Global challenges have no national borders.
  2. As a society, we’re only as safe as our most vulnerable people.
  3. Global challenges require systemic changes.
  4. Prevention is better than cure.
  5. All our response measures need to be based on science. 

As distressing as the last couple of months have been, the way we have been able so rapidly and drastically shift our way of life also gives hope to the possibility of “a new era of radical, collaborative action to cut emissions and slow climate change.”

And so, as we mark Earth Day 2020, let us keep that front and centre, and remember that it is only by working proactively and together that we can overcome both COVID-19 and take the climate action required to ensure the sustainable future we all desire and need.