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Climate change should be treated as an emergency in the same way as the pandemic, academics warn

CLIMATE change should be treated as an emergency in the same way as the Covid-19 pandemic, Glasgow academics say, amid fears that recovery from the pandemic could detract from global environmental efforts. 

A study led by Glasgow Caledonian University’s centre for climate justice focused on the experiences of policymakers in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Published today, the project’s report also recommends that governments keep the public informed with data about climate emergencies in the same way they have during the pandemic, with real-time reporting about loss of life and the damage caused by the impact of adverse weather.

A common concern reported was that resources channelled towards the pandemic response would detract from those previously allocated to climate action or that there would be a “downright reduction” of financial commitments.

The study, intended to inform discussions ahead of the COP26 United Nations climate change conference taking place in Glasgow later this year, recommends that industrialised nations be encouraged to commit higher levels of financial support and technology transfer to the developing world.

Researchers also looked at how the pandemic has affected the implementation of the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), national plans for climate action submitted by countries under the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The university’s Dr Sennan Mattar said: “Combined with the existing considerable development challenges across the African continent, it is crucial that NDC and development funding is not stopped or curtailed, despite the economic fallout caused by the pandemic in wealthier nations.”

The research consortium included the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and academic partners in Africa.

PACJA executive director Dr Mithika Mwenda said: “We are now past the point where we can address the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate emergency as separate crises.

“We, therefore, cannot have pandemic recovery plans that serve as excuses to further delay ambitious climate action.

“To be deemed successful, these plans must integrate the twin risks posed by Covid-19 and climate change by freeing up resources for the implementation of NDCs.”

The study comes as local leaders across Britain appeal for a political power shift to reach net-zero carbon emission levels. 

A letter signed by cross-party mayors and local leaders says that there should be devolution of powers and resources to shape local energy markets, decarbonise transport and tackle emissions from homes and offices.

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