The Post-COVID-19 Green Recovery Through the Implementation of The Paris Agreement

This article was written to commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the Paris Agreement on the 12th December 2020 and relates to Dr Sandra Piesik’s presentation during “The Cooler Earth Sustainability Summit” session entitled: “Mission Impossible? Taking Action on Climate Change” on 8th October 2020.

The Paris Agreement is a dynamic document with a developmental character. The multitude of issues embedded in this milestone agreement matter to every person living on this troubled planet, and will apply for generations to come. Food security, jobs, ecosystems, equality, and changing lifestyles combine in,  

“Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind.[1]

And

Emphasizing the intrinsic relationship that climate change actions, responses and impacts have with equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty”.[2]

The coronavirus pandemic, like climate change, respects neither social nor national boundaries. It affects rich and poor alike, film stars, politicians, celebrities. It impacts on tram drivers, nurses, doctors, teachers, and the migrant workers packaging our online orders during lockdowns. “We are all in the same canoe,” in the words of Fiji’s president, Frank Bainimarama, at the COP23 climate talks in 2017.

According to Dr Youssef Nassef, Director of the Adaptation Programme at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC}, COVID-19 and the adverse effects of climate change are symptoms of our unsustainable relationship with nature. We know from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) that ‘there are 1.7 million undiscovered viruses lurking in mammals & birds, half of which may have the ability to infect people’.[3] But we are presented with such paradoxical sets of information in this age of 24/7 news and social media feeds that it’s hard to discern truth. 

So, despite COVID-19 and other viruses being directly linked to deforestation, the clearing process continues in the rainforests of the Amazon and Indonesia, diverse habitats displaced to create palm oil and soya bean plantations, the products of which end up in consumables that we buy without a second thought. In the words of Emmanuel Macron: ”People can no longer balance consumer, worker & their own conscience. Because we have globalised all this it gets to the point where the interactions make it all contradictory.”[4]

COVID-19 has brought globalisation to its knees. Global think-tanks and leaders are highlighting de-centralisation; rationalisation is re-emerging. In November 2020, The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Asia-Pacific countries formed the world’s largest trading bloc. The success of the Just Transition framework and the movement away from Europe’s coal-dependent energy sector wouldn’t have been possible without the European Green Deal and the European Union itself. Regionalisation offers more opportunities than nationalism and neoliberalism. It forms links between countries with similar geographical and climatic characteristics, similar ecosystems and promotes individual and personal connections through cross-boundary cultural influences.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021- 2030) presents an opportunity to pursue bio-regional collaboration on ecosystems restoration on a greater scale than before, building capacities and resilience not only for future generations, but also for the present. That the disturbance of natural systems is has contributed to the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, and potential future pandemics, highlights the need for transboundary adaptation approaches where countries can capitalise on the existing UN system.

The Paris Agreement recognises:

the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth, and noting the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice”, when taking action to address climate change.”[5]

The Paris Agreement is “taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.[7] These developmental priorities vary from North to South and East to West. 

The dire implications of COVID-19 and its devastating effect on workers in the informal economy and on millions of enterprises worldwide were laid bare in data compiled by the International Labour Organization (ILO) during this spring’s global lockdown. The continued sharp decline in worldwide working hours due to the pandemic has meant that 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – nearly half of the global workforce – stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed.[8]

Tough choices will have to be made by economists, politicians, and epidemiologists if we are to combat the pandemic and keep economies going as we face the additional turmoil of political elections, social unrest and the unforgiving and accelerating impacts of climate change. In the space of a single week, in November 2020, Hurricane Lota caused tragic devastation in Central America, whilst the Philippines were placed under a ‘state of calamity’ following Typhoon Vamco. Equally tragic examples seem to occur on an almost weekly basis amidst an already unprecedented challenge to livelihoods and jobs.

In COVID-19: The Great Reset, the authors note the need to find a balance between what functioned before and what will be needed for us to prosper in the ‘new normal’. The world we knew before COVID-19 is never coming back and our priorities should reflect the new reality. Some solutions are divisive. The expanded use of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), seems to roughly fall in two categories: ‘AI for Good’ and ‘AI for Bad’. No matter which perspective we believe, the use of this technology will affect us all. There’s a need for robust discourse on the use of emergent technologies at every level, on open platforms that enable us to freely raise concerns and offer opinions.

In countries like Japan, the ’Zoom boom’ is increasing demand for screens and laptops and driving economic growth despite, or as a direct result of, the lockdowns. Big questions are being asked about digital equality and access to the Internet for all. 47% of the world’s population (approximately 3.6 billion people) do not use the Internet. While the reasons vary, lack of coverage is a major factor: approximately 10% of the world’s inhabitants live beyond the reach of a mobile network.[9] The quest for recognition and adaptation of all kinds of technologies, including, traditional indigenous technologies, remains vital for 47% of the world population. 

Article 7.5 of the Paris Agreement recommends: 

(…) Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate. (…)[10]

and Article 10.1 on technology transfer states that: 

(…) Parties share a long-term vision on the importance of fully realizing technology development and transfer in order to improve resilience to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (…) 

These technology development and transfer requirements also refer to the development of other clean and green technologies that have job creation and improvements in livelihoods at their core. Waste management and bio-economic sectors will offer unprecedented opportunities in the new normal, helping to address the post-COVID-19 #BuildBackBetter Green Recovery. 

As to a Great Reset via the mechanisms of the Paris Agreement, Agenda 2030 and regional agreements that seek multilateralism and global cooperation in their pursuit of the above, the authors of COVID-19: The Great Resetauthors leave us with a plea to make the world less divisive, less polluting, less destructive, more inclusive, more equitable and fairer than the one we left in the pre-pandemic era.[11]  

Dr Sandra Piesik 

Amsterdam, 23rd November 2020

Read the UNCC Paris Agreement here.


[1]The Paris Agreement, UNFCCC, 12.12.2015, p.20 Preamble 

[2] The Paris Agreement, UNFCCC, 12.12.2015, p.20 Preamble

[3] National Geographic, Protecting land and animals will mitigate future pandemics, report says, Sara Gibbens, 29.10.2020 

[4] The Macron Doctrine A Conversation with the French President https://geopolitique.eu/en/macron-grand-continent/

[5] The Paris Agreement, UNFCCC, 12.12.2015, p.20 Preamble

[6] Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret ‘COVID-19: The Great Reset’, 2020, Forum Publishing 

[7] The Paris Agreement, UNFCCC, 12.12.2015, p.20 Preamble

[8] ILO, COVID-19: Stimulating the economy and employment, 29.04.2020 https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_743036/lang–en/index.htm

[9] Understanding the unconnected (2019) https://stlpartners.com/research/understanding-why-half-the-people-in-the-world-dont-have-access-to-the-internet/

[10] The Paris Agreement, UNFCCC, 12.12.2015, Article 7, p.24

[11] Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret ‘COVID-19: The Great Reset’, 2020, Forum Publishing, p.244


Dr Sandra Piesik

Dr Sandra Piesik is an award-winning architect, author and researcher specialising in the implementation of global sustainable legislation, nature-based solutions and traditional knowledge adaptation. She is the founder of 3 ideas B.V. Amsterdam based consultancy, former Policy Support Consultant on Rural – Urban Dynamics to UNCCD and a contributor to the UN-HABITAT “Urban-Rural Linkages: Guiding Principles and Framework for Action to Advance Integrated Territorial Development”. Her diverse global engagements range from international lectures, judging of the competitions, nominator of awards, and evaluation of R&D projects for the European Union.

 

Dr Piesik is a stakeholder and network member of several UN organisations including UNFCCC: The Resilience Frontiers, the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP), the Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB) and Climate and Technology Centre & Network (CTCN).

Her published work includes Arish: Palm-Leaf Architecture (published by: Thames & Hudson in 2012), she is also the general editor of the encyclopaedia, HABITAT: Vernacular Architecture for a Changing Planet (published by: Thames & Hudson, Abrams Books, Flammarion, Editions Detail and Blume in 2017).