COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges and opportunities that prove to be relevant in the quest for global sustainability. As the worldwide economy is skidding into a recession, global citizens are engaging in eco-friendly living standards without the need for economic incentives. Scientists and engineers are seeking a vaccine to combat COVID-19 as environmental scientists' race to distinguish effective responses and recovery plans that materialize on the much-needed transformative changes required to achieve global sustainability.
The collaborative research and outreach organization that aims to attain a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive Asia-Pacific region domestically and internationally, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), is at the forefront of this discussion. Established in 1998 and headquartered in Hayama, Japan, the Institute is a regional and global network for sustainable ecological actions. As such, on May 14, 2020 IGES released its position in "Implications of COVID-19 for the Environment and Sustainability". A summary of the paper is as follows.
Addressing Urgent Concerns
A principal concern that must be addressed immediately includes the management of medical waste. Throughout hospitals, there is a rapid increase in medical waste due to an explosion of single-use plastic, such as disposable gloves and masks. Besides, although it is true social-isolation precautions have elevated ambient air-quality in many Asian and other cities, measures must be taken to avoid a rebound in pollution levels once the pandemic is over. In fact, the critical sector that may be targeted is transportation, as some urban areas have already begun, by promoting cycling and walking to diminish carbon footprints.
Paving the Way for Post-Crisis Green Recovery
Determining policies that build a society more adept at managing a similar pandemic crisis is as important as finding a vaccine for COVID-19. In other words, we must "build back better" once the pandemic is over. The IGES is engaging in multiple strategies to achieve this, such as encouraging the implementation of a "global" Green New Deal."
Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Society
To attain a sustainable society, we must look at research and factual evidence. IGES is planning to launch a case study on the application of the Regional Circulating and Ecological Spheres concept in two regions in Asia and other partner institutes in the hopes of uncovering urban-rural interdependency patterns amid a pandemic crisis. Furthermore, effective urban environmental measures must be implemented in developing countries to ensure a safe return to normalcy once the pandemic is over.
In the hopes of creating a resilient and sustainable Earth, IGES has showcased through leadership and cooperation that such a hope is possible so long as we are willing to engage in multi-lateral, multi-layered responses that address short-term and long-term issues.