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Journal article

Call for comments: climate and clean air responses to Covid-19

This article urges economic stimulus efforts to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic in ways that address linked and urgent global issues, including health, air pollution, climate change and sustainable development. The authors, including SEI Research Leader Johan C.I. Kuylenstierna and SEI Research Associate Lisa Emberson, are members of the Scientific Advisory Panel of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and other invited experts. The authors represent 16 research organizations, including SEI.

Johan C.I. Kuylenstierna, Lisa Emberson / Published on 26 May 2020

Agrawala, S., Amann, M., Binimelis de Raga, G. et al. Call for comments: climate and clean air responses to covid-19. Int J Public Health (2020).

Avenida 23 de Maio, São Paulo, Brazil, with all lanes empty

São Paulo, Brazil during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Carlos Alkmin / Getty Images.

The article urges the scientific and policy communities to work together to use the pandemic recovery period to spur transformational change that can address urgent, linked global issues. The authors argue that the acute challenge of the global pandemic should not  compromise “efforts to tackle the world’s inescapable, linked, and ongoing challenges of climate change, poor air quality, unsustainable development, and the loss of biodiversity”.

“How we decide to stimulate the economy in response to the Covid-19 virus can have enormous impacts on these longstanding global threats,” the authors note. “As governments apply economic stimulus efforts, it is more important than ever that these make the connection between health, air pollution, climate, and the environment. By addressing climate, air pollution, and sustainable development as an integrated problem, we can identify technologies, lifestyle changes, and policy solutions which achieve multiple near-term benefits efficiently, sustainably, and often at lower cost than solutions that no not consider both the economy and the environment.”

The authors identify solutions that can deliver economic and social objectives and, at the same time, protect air and climate. They outline eight categories that warrant investment and attention:

  • Developing, deploying and integrating the use of clean, renewable energy instead of fossil fuels to ensure equitable and affordable access for all.
  • Implementing measures that reduce short-lived climate pollutants by addressing emissions from the burning or collection of municipal solid waste. These measures are often low- or no-cost and quickly achieve multiple-near term economic, public health, and social benefits, the authors note.
  • Adopting policies and regulations that improve indoor air quality by incentivizing energy access and energy efficiency of buildings and appliances.
  • Preserving and expanding forests and other natural sinks.
  • Creating sustainable food systems, reducing food waste, and promoting healthy diets.
  • Establishing more local, circular and, low-carbon economies that incentivize safe reuse, remanufacturing and recycling of products.
  • Creating resilient supply chains.
  • Making transport systems sustainable by encouraging active travel, working from home, and implementing policies to reduce both daily commuting and business travel.
  • Investing in knowledge institutions, especially in the Global South, to strengthen capability to produce high-quality and context-relevant analyses and build requisite human resources.

SEI authors

Johan C.I. Kuylenstierna

Reader / Research Leader

SEI York

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