Environmentalists urge countries to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns cleaner and greener

5/05/2020 12:30:00 PM

As countries plan a return to a 'new normal' after coronavirus lockdowns, leaders are being urged to consider adopting cleaner and greener practices.

As countries plan a return to a 'new normal' after coronavirus lockdowns, leaders are being urged to consider adopting cleaner and greener practices.

As countries plan a return to a 'new normal' after coronavirus lockdowns, leaders are being urged to consider adopting cleaner and greener practices.

"We can make our society and our planet healthier by investing in renewable energy, by driving clean cars, by renovating our houses and making them energy efficient, by buying sustainable food, reusing materials rather than throwing them away, or producing low carbon steel."

Emeritus professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, Will Steffan, said the COVID-19 shutdown had given many Australians pause for thought about the future.Coronavirus has made many Australians rethink the future.Although many people are longing to enjoy doing what they were freely able to do a matter of weeks or months ago, Dr Laura Schuijers is cautioning Australians not to romanticise their old lives.

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April 3, 2020 President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, said last week countries should not simply return to business as usual.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the breakthrough is a big step forward.La Liga could finish season Russia again reports more than 10,000 new cases Russia's national task force dealing with the outbreak reported 10,581 new coronavirus cases on Monday [local time] including 5,795 in Moscow, bringing the nation's total to 145,268, including 1,356 deaths.Italians strolled in the park, grabbed take-away cappuccinos and paid their respects to the astonishing number of dead as the European epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic gingerly woke up from the continent's first and longest lockdown.

  "As we now plan to slowly go back to work and to invest billions of euros to restart our economy, we should avoid falling back to old polluting habits. Instead, we should bounce back better from this pandemic," she said in Brussels last week. (AP) "Like all countries, Israel is now trying to find the right balance between protecting the health of our citizens by preventing another spike in infections, and enabling the reopening of our economy, but, ultimately, to ensure both the public health and national prosperity, we must all work together on improving diagnostics, accelerating therapies and ultimately developing a vaccine," he said.  "We can make our society and our planet healthier by investing in renewable energy, by driving clean cars, by renovating our houses and making them energy efficient, by buying sustainable food, reusing materials rather than throwing them away, or producing low carbon steel. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that the real number of infections in the capital could amount to 2 per cent of its population, which would total more than 250,000 in the city of 13 million." Australians consider different direction There are similar feelings in Australia. "We hope to work with other countries to leverage our unique capabilities to find solutions for the benefit of all. Emeritus professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, Will Steffan, said the COVID-19 shutdown had given many Australians pause for thought about the future. "We are being careful, trying not to do too many things, but at least we are finally outside and breathing some fresh air," said Daniele Bianchi, as he strolled through Rome's Villa Borghese park.

"We need to think carefully about what sort of system - economic system, energy system and so on - we go back to. The country's health minister was diagnosed with coronavirus last month, but has since recovered. ( AP: Sergey Vedyashkin via Moscow News Agency ) Many hospitals across the vast country have reported a shortage of equipment and protective gear. And I think there’s been a lot of discussion already about that," Dr Steffen, who is a member of the Climate Council, told SBS News. "I think a lot of people are thinking, because they’ve had forced changes in their lifestyles because of the COVID-19 crisis, I think it is triggering some thought about what sort of society, what sort of lifestyle, do we want to have when we come out of this crisis. Coronavirus has made many Australians rethink the future. Police in Moscow said they would use helicopters and drones to prevent big gatherings of people in city parks. AAP “And can we head off in a different direction that gives us social benefits, as well as tackling some of the longer-term environmental challenges like climate change, like biosphere degradation. And any newfound sense of freedom was clouded by the first comprehensive reckoning of just how great a toll COVID-19 had taken.

” Although many people are longing to enjoy doing what they were freely able to do a matter of weeks or months ago, Dr Laura Schuijers is cautioning Australians not to romanticise their old lives. Dr Schuijers is an environmental lawyer, and a research fellow in climate solutions at the University of Melbourne. The world's largest lockdown, in force since March 25, is slowly being eased in some areas with fewer infections, although it will stay in place at least until May 17, the Government said last week. She said much of our normal lives were environmentally unfriendly, pointing to last summer’s bushfire crisis as an example. "It’s tempting to placate anxiety and everything we’re feeling at the moment, with normalcy - going back to what we know, and the accompanying thoughts - but, honestly, our normal wasn’t perfect. "I mean, right before this in Australia, we had a devastating fire season. In the capital New Delhi, where some offices resumed work on Monday with fewer staff and traffic trickled into the streets, a police official said officers were forced to act after unruly crowds gathered outside liquor stores. For the first time in two months, Italians were able to honour some of those dead with funerals, though attendance was limited to 15 people.

We were seeing the impact that business as usual was having on the environment and it wasn’t looking good.” Environment v the economy: a fight that need not happen As world leaders look to reopen an economy battered by coronavirus, Dr Schuijers said it’s important not to think of the environment and the economy as two competing claims. She said it was important to remember that a healthy economy cannot function properly without a healthy environment. "We don’t want to be thinking that our economic and social wellbeing needs to be pitted against the environment, because, actually, our wellbeing and our prosperity depend on a healthy environment. READ MORE “We need a stable climate system to avoid more bushfires. Everybody was wearing face masks," she said.

We need clean water for agriculture, and clean air to survive. We know that we need resources to produce things.” Every country will face its own set of challenges trying to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. Dr Steffen said Australia is better placed than most countries when it comes to trying to combine economic recovery with environmental improvement. He says a key area could be renewable energy, and Australia’s ability to export it, instead of fossil fuels like coal. "Milanese behaved in a very diligent way," he said.

"I think we’re in good shape. We, for example, if you’re talking about the energy system, we’ve got probably the best renewable resource in the world, in terms of solar and wind. And when we think a little bit beyond our own electricity needs, you can start thinking of very substantial export industries. "Instead of simply digging up coal and selling it, we could actually produce hydrogen, using renewable energy. And there will be a large and growing market in East Asia for that as a clean energy source. Greece has been credited with keeping its number of deaths and critically ill down with its early lockdown, registering just 144 victims and 37 in intensive care.

“So, I think if we rethink the directions we want to go in, we can connect up with the rest of the world, and undoubtedly there are going to be changes happening there, as other countries come out of their crises as well." Carbon dioxide emissions are set to fall as energy demand slumps during the coronavirus pandemic. AAP Proposals to invest more in renewable energy are not new.   Debate has raged about the federal government’s renewable energy targets and efforts to reduce emissions for years now.  Dr Steffen said Australians needed to reach consensus on the issue if the country is to come out the other side of COVID-19 cleaner and greener. We're entering a new era," she said.

  "We’re going to need an all levels of society approach to really re-making our energy system, thinking perhaps more after this crisis about maybe manufacturing a few more things here, rather than relying on imports. These are the conversations we need to have. "And I think we need to couch them in terms of: if we really do transform our societies, can we do this in a direction that delivers a cleaner society, better environmental outcomes, more employment, and healthier lifestyles.” Topics: Stay up to date with SBS NEWS App .