According to the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD), the COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis. Efforts to contain the virus and support those directly impacted are of utmost importance. It therefore highlights three ways by which the COVID-19 is shaping Sustainable Development.
The views are shaped by IISD’s threefold mission to advance a stable climate, sustainable resource development, and fair economies as follows:
Resilience is essential. It has been heartbreaking to see lives risked due to global shortages of critical medical and safety equipment, including masks worth less than a dollar. This lack of planning and preparation for the outbreak has starkly demonstrated the importance of resilience: the ability for human systems to anticipate, cope, and adapt. Resilience is also critical to how the world responds to climate change, where further temperature increases are now nearly certain. Our communities and institutions must succeed in planning for and adapting to climate change or risk further heartbreak and tragedy.
Stimulus must be sustainable. Governments around the world are racing to implement economic stimulus and support packages to keep individuals, businesses, and economies afloat. While supporting their urgent implementation, we must ensure that these measures pave the way to a more sustainable economy and do not lock us further into a high-carbon future. Periods of high unemployment and low interest rates are the right time for new low-carbon investments and infrastructure, including the kind required to support the transition to clean energy.
Inequality is magnified. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global shock that magnifies the impact of inequality, hitting the poor the hardest. In developed countries, frontline workers in the service economy are among the most exposed to the virus and the least able to absorb its financial impact. And the hardest hit will be the poor in developing countries, where already-struggling workers will not have the benefit of social safety nets and stimulus packages. The G7 and G20 must immediately help these countries to finance the flattening of the pandemic curve. Longer term, we must redouble efforts to foster sustainable economic systems, including fair trade and investment.