People's Stories Environment

COVID-19: “Not an excuse” to roll back environmental protection and enforcement
by David Boyd
Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment
April 2020
COVID-19 must not be used as an excuse to weaken environmental protection, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd said.
“In light of the global environmental crisis that predates COVID-19, these actions are irrational, irresponsible, and jeopardize the rights of vulnerable people,” he said. The expert’s statement comes after a number of governments announced that they are lowering environmental standards, suspending environmental monitoring requirements, reducing environmental enforcement, and restricting public participation.
“Such policy decisions are likely to result in accelerated deterioration of the environment and have negative impacts on a wide range of human rights including the rights to life, health, water, culture, and food, as well as the right to live in a healthy environment,” the UN expert said.
“The science is clear. People living in areas that have experienced higher levels of air pollution face increased risk of premature death from COVID-19. Similarly, access to clean water is essential in preventing people from contracting and spreading the virus,” Boyd said. “The global pandemic highlights the vital importance of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”
The UN expert noted that three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases are ‘zoonoses’ - meaning they jump from wild or domesticated animals into humans. This includes Ebola, SARS, MERS, and now COVID-19.
“Scientists warn that deforestation, industrial agriculture, illegal wildlife trade, climate change and other types of environmental degradation increase the risk of future pandemics, raising the probability of major human rights violations,” Boyd said.
“As COVID-19 is demonstrating, pandemics can undermine the rights of billions of people, especially those who are already vulnerable to environmental harm including people living in poverty, minorities, elderly, indigenous peoples, women and children''.
“The short-sighted decision to weaken or suspend environmental regulations will make things even worse. Instead, governments need to accelerate efforts to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, because a healthy environment is an effective way to prevent pandemics and protect human rights''.
“In light of the global environmental crisis that predates the COVID-19 pandemic, States should step up their efforts to protect the environment, not step back,” the expert said.

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Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return
by UN Environment Programme, agencies
Apr. 2020
António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General:
On this International Earth Day, all eyes are on the COVID-19 pandemic – the biggest test the world has faced since the Second World War. We must work together to save lives, ease suffering and lessen the shattering economic and social consequences. The impact of the coronavirus is both immediate and dreadful.
But there is another, deep emergency - the planet’s unfolding environmental crisis. Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return. We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption.
The current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call. We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.
I am therefore proposing six climate-related actions to shape the recovery and the work ahead.
First: as we spend huge amounts of money to recover from the coronavirus, we must deliver new jobs and businesses through a clean, green transition.
Second: where taxpayers’ money is used to rescue businesses, it needs to be tied to achieving green jobs and sustainable growth.
Third: fiscal firepower must drive a shift from the grey to green economy, and make societies and people more resilient.
Fourth: public funds should be used to invest in the future, not the past, and flow to sustainable sectors and projects that help the environment and the climate.
Fossil fuel subsidies must end, and polluters must start paying for their pollution.
Fifth: climate risks and opportunities must be incorporated into the financial system as well as all aspects of public policy making and infrastructure.
Sixth: we need to work together as an international community.
These six principles constitute an important guide to recovering better together. Greenhouse gases, just like viruses, do not respect national boundaries.
On this Earth Day, join me in demanding a healthy and resilient future for people and planet alike.

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