By Sarah Freeman, Policy Officer at SCIAF
The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. In Europe and the US, we have adapted to a new normal. We wear face masks, wash our hands, and follow lockdown restrictions in our global efforts to protect ourselves.
Yet, there is a fundamental flaw in our collective armour. Not everyone has access to soap and clean water, or adequate healthcare. Not everyone can afford to stay at home and stay safe. COVID-19 has deepened global inequalities and hit the poorest and most marginalised the hardest. It risks undoing the progress we have made towards the Sustainable Development Goals and threatens to push millions of people further in to poverty.
Communities in the global south are facing a double threat: COVID-19 and climate change. For many people around the world, the effects of climate change were already threating livelihoods, healthcare and access to food. As Scotland begins to recover, we must transform our world for the better by putting people and the planet first. We must not go back to normal. Normal was not good enough for millions of people already facing the catastrophic consequences of climate change.
In central Zambia, climate change is having a devastating effect. Unpredictable droughts have caused widespread crop failure, harvests have been limited and food prices have rocketed. Many people are surviving on just three meals a week. High malnutrition combined with limited water sources has led to increasing gender-based violence and outbreaks of preventable diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis and malaria.
Now COVID-19 has arrived. Protective face masks and hand sanitisers are unaffordable and poor diet and high rates of poverty-related diseases put people at greater risk of coronavirus. School closures are affecting education levels, and restrictions on movement have led to high unemployment rates. Women are bearing the burden of this double crisis.
We need to build back better. We need a global recovery that leaves no-one behind; a fairer and greener world that puts people and planet first. This could be a historic turning point when we tackle the twin emergencies of coronavirus and climate change. It’s a chance to build resilience against future crises at home and abroad. A chance to build on our commitments to the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
For a truly green and just recovery, we need to support communities’ resilience to future emergencies and help them to recover from the double threats of COVID-19 and climate change. In Scotland, we have prospered from our greenhouse gas emissions and we have a moral responsibility to support those who are suffering the most but have done the least to cause the climate crisis. By increasing the Climate Justice Fund, Scotland can set a strong, global example of climate justice in the run up to COP26 and urge other nations to do the same. Our leadership has never been more important.