The effects of confinement on the environment have shown that it is possible to live in a world with cleaner air, as well as to work and transport ourselves in a healthier way. Furthermore, COVID-19 has demonstrated the need to be healthy to avoid taking greater risks. The UN health agency, with the support of millions of health workers, has published a manifesto with the steps to follow for a green and healthy recovery the pandemic.
The human cost of the coronavirus has been devastating, and the so-called blocking measures have turned “normal” life, but the crisis may be an opportunity for a better future, said the director of the World Health Organization on Wednesday. .
"The pandemic has given us an idea of what our world could be like if we took the bold steps necessary to curb climate change and air pollution. Our air and water can be cleaner, our streets can be quieter and safer, and we can find new ways to work while spending more time with our families, "said Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus.
On Tuesday, some 40 million health professionals sent a letter to the leaders of each of the G20 nations, calling for a healthy and green recovery COVID-19.
With the support of these essential workers, the Organization has published a manifesto with six simple recommendations:
1. Protect and preserve the source of human health: nature
Economies are the product of healthy human societies, which in turn depend on the natural environment, the original source of all clean air, water, and food.
Human pressures, deforestation, to polluting and intensive farming practices, and insecure management and consumption of wildlife, undermine these services. They also increase the risk of emerging infectious diseases in humans, more than 60% of which originate in animals, mainly in wildlife.
General plans for post-COVID-19 recovery, and specifically those aimed at reducing the risk of future epidemics, must go beyond early detection and control of disease outbreaks, they also need to lessen our impact on the environment.
2. Invest in essential services, water and sanitation to clean energy in sanitary facilities
Worldwide, billions of people lack access to the most basic services required to protect their health, be it COVID-19 or any other risk.
Hand washing facilities are essential for the prevention of the transmission of infectious diseases, but 40% of households do not have them.
Antimicrobial resistant pathogens are widespread in water and waste, and proper management is needed to prevent spread to humans. In particular, it is essential that healthcare facilities are equipped with water and sanitation services, including soap and water, which is the most basic intervention to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other infections, access to energy required to carry out most medical procedures and protective equipment for health workers.
Overall, avoidable environmental and occupational hazards cause about a quarter of all deaths worldwide. Investing in healthier environments for health protection, environmental regulation and ensuring that health systems are climate resistant is an essential barrier against future disasters and offers some of the best benefits for society.
For example, every dollar invested in strengthening the United States Clean Air Act has returned $ 30 to the benefit of American citizens, through better air quality and better health.
3. Ensure a quick and healthy energy transition.
Currently, more than seven million people a year die exposure to air pollution, 1 in 8 deaths worldwide. More than 90% of people breathe outside air with levels of pollution that exceed the reference values for air quality. Two thirds of this exposure to outdoor pollution is the result of burning the same fossil fuels that drive climate change.
At the same time, renewable energy sources and their storage continue to drop in price, increasing reliability and providing more numerous, safer, and better paying jobs. The energy infrastructure decisions made will be maintained for decades to come.
Several of the countries that were the first and most affected by COVID-19, such as Italy and Spain, and those that were most successful in controlling the disease, such as South Korea and New Zealand, have put green development together with the Health at the heart of your COVID-19 recovery strategies. A rapid global transition to clean energy would not only meet the objective of the Paris climate agreement to keep warming below 2 ° C, but would also improve air quality to the point that the resulting health gains would offset the cost of investment up to twice.
4. Promote healthy and sustainable food systems.
Diseases caused by lack of access to food or by eating unhealthy, high-calorie diets are now the leading cause of health problems worldwide. They also increase vulnerability to other risks: conditions such as obesity and diabetes are among the main risk factors for disease and death COVID-19.
Agriculture, particularly the destruction of land to raise livestock, contributes about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and change in land use is the main environmental driver of new disease outbreaks.
There is a need for a rapid transition to healthy, nutritious and sustainable diets. "If the world could meet the dietary guidelines set by the World Health Organization, this would save millions of lives, reduce the risk of disease and greatly reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases," says the Organization.
5. Build healthy and livable cities.
More than half of the world's population now lives in cities that are responsible for more than 60% of economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions. Because cities have relatively high population densities and are saturated with traffic, many trips can be made more efficiently by public transport, on foot and by bicycle, than by private car. This also brings significant health benefits by reducing air pollution, traffic injuries, and the more than three million deaths annually physical inactivity.
Many of the largest and most dynamic cities in the world, such as Milan, Paris, and London, have reacted to the COVID-19 crisis by pedestrianizing the streets and expanding bicycle lanes en masse, allowing transport with physical distance during the crisis. and it has improved economic activity and quality of life.
6. Stop using public money to finance pollution
The economic damage of COVID-19, due to the measures necessary for its control, is very real and will put great pressure on the government's finances. Financial reform will be inevitable to recover COVID-19, and a good place to start is with fossil fuel subsidies.
Globally, approximately $ 400 billion of taxpayer money is spent each year to directly subsidize the fossil fuels that are driving climate change and causing air pollution. Furthermore, the private and social costs generated by health and other impacts of such pollution are generally not included in the price of fuel and energy. Including the damage to health and the environment they cause, the real value of the subsidy exceeds half a trillion dollars per year, more than all governments around the world spend on health care, and around 2000 times the budget. the World Health Organization.
Putting a price on polluting fuels in line with the damage they cause would cut deaths outdoor air pollution by about half, cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than a quarter, and increase about 4% of global GDP in income. We should stop paying the pollution bill, both through our pockets and through our lungs.