The current crisis shines an unforgiving light on how the fulfilment of our most basic needs relies now on fragile, unsustainable systems. This crisis also finds its very origin in deforestation and protected animal traffic and was worsened by poor quality environment (notably air pollution). We must start to implement the changes which will allow us to mitigate and to go through the next crisis, within the limits of our ecosystems.
The current crisis revealed once again the interdependence between human health, the well-being of our societies and of the natural systems on which they depend. ForEuropeans to live well within the limits of the planet, our modes of production and consumption need a radical change. While reducing our impact on wildlife and biodiversity could help us prevent the emergence of a new zoonotic disease like Covid-19, we need to ensure that all sectors of the economy fully contribute to achieving a climate-neutral, environmentally sustainable, zero-pollution and fully circular economy by 2040. This is the only way to face the existential threat posed by climate change and the massive loss of biodiversity. The European Green Deal remains more than ever the basis for our future development model. It should even be reinforced to ensure all investment efforts do no harm to the climate nor to the environment and even act as a win-win out of the crisis:
One of the big shocks of this crisis is the realisation that the access to some of the EU citizens’ basic needs, and in particular food and health, is much more fragile than many thought. Whilst food is still on EU shelves, prices have been very unstable. The lack of farm workers will massively impact the production of fruits and vegetables, and disturbance in the trade of inputs (fertilisers, pesticides, seeds and animal feed) is affecting production deeply, and might even lead to the collapse of certain sectors.During this crisis, difficulties in live animal transport (within the EU and to/from third countries) have drawn further attention to the need to reduce and re-localise this production, given the animal welfare and food security implications. European food sovereignty is far from achieved. To solve this situation, the EU needs to support and invest in the diversification and the re-localisation of productions.
Instead of refurbishing a system that has shown its weakness, the EU should seize this occasion to revitalize the economy post-COVID-19 through legally binding targets and targeted investments allowing our society to be better prepared against future crises -new pandemics, the already ongoing climate crisis or the consequences of the ecosystem collapse. Sectors that combine a high local and quality-job creation potential, the potential to revitalize our territories while reducing bills for household sand reducing our collective ecological footprint should be prioritized:
The immediate response to the crisis has shown that, too often, conservative stakeholders still see “the environment” as an external, supplementary issue, that can be ignored and set aside when “serious” things happen, thus entirely ignoring the systemic problems which contributed to the crisis at hand. On the contrary, it is time to use the European Green Deal and its related strategies as a basis, a template, for the reconstruction to come. These strategies, with precise targets and linked regulatory reviews are needed now, not when the crisis is over and most member states and stakeholders have already started making their own disparate plans of recovery. In particular, the low price of oil should be taken as an opportunity to end any fossil fuel subsidies, including gas, whether direct (through infrastructure of state aid) or indirect (through tax exemptions). Any attack on current or upcoming EU environmental standards or targets should be seriously condemned. Strict rules on the interaction between the fossil fuel industry and policy-makers must be put in place, as they already exist for tobacco companies. EU institutions and Member States should interact with the fossil fuel industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the fossil fuel industry and its activity.