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Future-proofing our societies

Following the COVID-19 crisis things will not be the same as before. People are asking themselves when we are going back to normality, but I believe that what we will be witnessing would be a “new normality” different from what we were accustomed to.  I am saying this because I believe that this crisis and its aftermath can offer us the opportunity to actually implement changes that have long been pending in our own economic model. The same economic model that led to climate change and increased air pollution.

The aftermath of this pandemic requires the political will to roll out a strong and immediate response. However, this response should look at the long-term impact and not be based only on what some policy makers might consider as quick wins. A lot has been said before the outbreak of COVID-19 about the European Green Deal. Some might think that environmental issues would now have to wait. I strongly disagree. There has never been a more urgent time to make sure that we invest in a new economic model that helps our planet rather than destroys it.

The European Green Deal will be our opportunity to get out of the COVID-19 crisis. If we will revert back to the same business model that got us into this crisis in the first place, we will experience more future shocks that risk outgrowing governments’ and institutions’ capacities to come up with the right response.

The link between climate change and the spread of diseases has been outlined by scientists over the years. In a recent study by the IPCC under the auspices of the UN the link between climate change and the spread of diseases was made very clear. It was also stated that global warming will increase the emergence of new viruses. The WHO also states that changes in infectious disease transmission patterns are a likely major consequence of climate change. If we were seriously to heed the warnings of scientists then we need to change the way we have been doing things for the past decades.

Scientists have already declared that in the future humanity will not be defined by just one major emergency but by a number of different crises resulting from our failure to actually live in a sustainable way.

The coronavirus is a wake-up call warning us to stop pushing the planet’s limits. It warns us that deforestation, loss of biodiversity and climate change render pandemics more probable, increasing the probability of diseases that move from animals to humans as we have seen in this pandemic.

So instead of simply reacting to a catastrophe we can use science to project the economic models that can actually lower the threats of climate change, biodiversity loss and pandemics.

Like COVID-19, climate change, the loss of biodiversity and financial collapse do not respect national or physical boundaries. These challenges can only be managed through collective global action that starts well before a challenge becomes a full-blown crisis.

If there is one major lesson to be learnt from this pandemic, it is the need to ensure that money is invested where it really matters. It should not go into subsidising fossil fuels that do nothing but destroy our environment and ultimately our own health but into cleaner sources of energy. Subsidies to fossil fuels can and should be completely eliminated. Money should go into local agriculture production that is free from pesticides and other toxicities. More importance should be invested into agriculture particularly in a country like Malta and where being self-sustaining is vital in moments like these.

In the midst of a global public health emergency and an imminent economic recession, the importance of the European Green Deal is even more pronounced. This should be the model that we work on as from now. This is the vision that aspires to protect people’s wellbeing and their health from risks and environmental impacts whilst create a non-toxic environment, providing healthy food and protecting biodiversity. Proper investment in this new way of doing things can create jobs and ensure economic growth. This is the way forward to future proof our societies.

Either way, after the COVID-19 crisis will hopefully be over, money needs to be heavily invested to regenerate our economies and the only way forward is to change the economic model that we have adopted for the last decades and which did not look at the long-term impacts of destroying our natural habitat.  

Our people are resilient and entrepreneurial and can adapt to change when they have to. This crisis showed us how society can transform itself in a very short time. If we learn from past mistakes we can create a future which is brighter than what we have been accustomed to. This is our opportunity to actually invest in resilient economies that can actually help our health and wellbeing.