COVID-19 Crisis be Opportunity?
COVID-19 has hit the entire society hard. A collateral victim of the current pandemic may be all the actions addressed to manage the climate crisis. This is evidenced by, for example, COP26 postponement. Furthermore, the ambitious European green deal funding priorities may be overtaken by those for the COVID-19 pandemic. The short-term emergency threatening the necessary long-term requirements is nothing new but, does it need to be this way? Can’t we create a win-win scenario?
The COVID19 pandemic requires a large financial stimulus package which creates opportunities for change, and possibly for the better. We cannot simply continue the way we did, and therefore any stimulus packages should be holistic and not only include requirements and indicators for the economy, but also for equity, sustainability, liveability and health. The money can only be spent once, and we therefore might as well do it in the way that will save more lives in the long term, and create a more just, sustainable and liveable society.
According to data from the United Nations, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. Suboptimal urban and transport planning in cities has led them to be hotspots of air pollution and noise, heat island effects and lack of green space. What are the effects of these conditions?
Outdoor air pollution alone kills 9 million people a year- a number that could be significantly reduced as the current COVID-19 pandemic has shown. A recent health impact assessment study in Barcelona found that around 20% of premature mortality was due to factors related to suboptimal urban and transport planning. Cities are also large emitters of CO2, one of the main factors behind the climate crisis.
Cities might be the problem, but also the solution as they are centres of innovation and wealth creation and tend to be more responsive and agile in their governance. As part of any stimulus package, cities could and should take measures to become carbon neutral, more liveable and healthier by changing their current urban and transport planning practices. In this webinar some measures are discussed.
Prof. Dr. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen talked about the opportunity, created by the COVID-19 crisis, to make cities carbon neutral, livable and healthy.
He is a world leading expert in environmental exposure assessment, epidemiology, and health risk/impact assessment with a strong focus and interest on healthy urban living. He has edited 3 books on Exposure Assessment and on Environmental Epidemiology, and 1 on Integrating human health into Urban and Transport planning, 1 on Transportation and Health and has co-authored more than 450 papers published in peer reviewed journals and 35 book chapters. In 2018, he was awarded the ISEE John Goldsmith Award for Outstanding Contributions to Environmental Epidemiology. In both 2018 and 2019 he was among the 1% most cited scientists in the world.