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In this paper, we focus on the disruption that the current pandemic has created within the US industrial food system. We suggest that the pandemic has provided an opening for small producers. Attending to small-scale responses to the pandemic can guide policy and public investments towards a more just and sustainable future for food.
Building on the IPES-Food Communique of April 2020, we examine the many ways in which the US industrial food system faltered during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Using Regime Theory as a guide, we suggest that such a catastrophic crisis may create significant opportunities for an emergent food regime. Drawing from our research and participant observation in the US Midwest, we examine changes in the food system occasioned by the pandemic that foreshadow a new food regime. We suggest several blockages and risks to this new regime and suggest policies that would make transition smoother to a more just and sustainable food system.
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What will food be like after the pandemic? This new study outlines an alternative food system emerging in the American Midwest.
To decrease the negative impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on human health, governments have implemented wide-ranging control measures. Moreover, they were urged to tackle a new challenge in energy policies to supply a new form of demand derived from new lifestyles of citizens and different energy consumption patterns. This article investigates the impacts of these changes on climate change and human health (due to air pollution) as a challenge for both citizens and governments in four countries: Colombia, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
The emergence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been associated with global challenges in both energy supply and demand. Numerous articles have discussed the potential benefits of COVID-19 for our planet to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollutants. By bringing the emissions from the energy production together with the air quality indicators, this article studies the impact on climate change and human health due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the consequent changes in energy policies of governments as well as lifestyles in different societies. This study shows that in spite of having a reduction, the GHG emissions might go back to previous or higher levels if governments do not see this pandemic as an opportunity to promote the use of renewable energies, which are becoming cheaper than non-renewables. Additionally, lower energy demand and less anthropogenic activities do not necessarily result in lower GHG emissions from energy production. Our results highlight the need for revising the policies and decisions of both governments and citizens, as temporary reductions in the levels of energy demand and air pollutants can easily be counterbalanced by adverse effects, known as the ‘rebound effect.’
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How did the changes in energy consumption and production due to COVID-19 affect climate change and human health in different countries?
The thesis of this paper is that the COVID-19 crisis creates opportunities for fundamental change towards a more sustainable economy, for two reasons: structural change in the economy and a change in public opinion. The paper identifies how the COVID-19 crisis accelerates six processes of change that can be leveraged in policy making. With a focus on the Netherlands, it argues for activist government policy because of the tipping-point nature of the economic system in the crisis.
Structural change in the economy and a change in public opinion during the COVID-19 crisis jointly imply that government choices regarding investments, regulation and taxes can now create stronger synergies of cleaner economic growth and employment creation with ecological, social and financial sustainability. The paper details this for six areas, with examples taken from The Netherlands. High levels of private and (in some countries) public debt may become so unsustainable that this prompts a restructuring of financing systems which are more productive and more in support of ecological goals. In value chains, ICT systems and urban transport systems, forced changes such as more work from home, more cycling lanes and more local production may, once in place, be used as proof of concepts for permanently different infrastructures and organizations. Aviation and energy became dependent on public support, which created financial leverage for enforcing change.
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COVID-19 creates opportunities for change towards sustainability as it accelerates six processes of change.
2020 was to be a landmark year for setting targets to stop biodiversity loss and prevent dangerous climate change. However, COVID-19 has caused delays to the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the 26th COP of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Negotiations on the Global Biodiversity Framework and the second submission of Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement were due to take place at these COPs. There is uncertainty as to how the COVID-19 disruption will affect the negotiations, whether parties will pursue more ambitious actions or take a weaker stance on issues. Our policy analysis shows there are broad opportunities for climate and biodiversity frameworks to better respond to COVID-19, by viewing future pandemics, biodiversity loss, and climate change as interconnected problems. Importantly, there needs to be greater focus on agriculture and food systems in discussions, establishing safeguards for carbon markets, and implementing nature-based solutions in meeting the Paris Agreement goals. We can no longer delay action to address the biodiversity and climate emergencies, and accelerating sustainable recovery plans through virtual spaces may help keep discussions and momentum before the resumption of in-person negotiations.
High ambition needed at UN biodiversity and climate conferences to address pandemics, biodiversity, climate change, and health.
Urban density is erroneously regarded as the main factor in the spread of COVID-19 in cities. A review of extant literature and findings from our case study of Karachi, Pakistan indicate that inequalities in income, healthcare, and living conditions play a key role in the spread of contagions along with government responsiveness to the pandemic. Moving forward, urban policies need to address these inequalities through changes in housing policies and decentralized governance systems. Cities must adapt to sustainable modes of travel, reduce digital inequalities, and encourage people friendly urban planning to become resilient in the face of pandemics.
COVID-19 has changed how urban residents relate to their cities. Urban centers have become epicenters of disease, which has raised questions about the long-term sustainability of high-density settlements and public transport usage. However, the spread of COVID-19 in cities is incorrectly attributed to urban density.
Using the case study of Karachi, Pakistan, we find that inequality of income, healthcare, and living conditions is a major contributing factor to the spread of COVID-19. Data on positive COVID-19 cases, density, and socioeconomic status were obtained at the Union Council level from administrative districts of Karachi, Pakistan between March 2020, and July 2020. Despite low population densities, low-to-middle income neighborhoods in Karachi had a higher proportion of positive cases. Further, the experience of dense cities such as Hanoi in Vietnam and New York in the US differs regarding the spread of COVID-19. Hence, the government's response to the pandemic is also a major factor in containing the outbreak.
Our findings suggest that a crisis in a city is exacerbated by its inability to take advantage of its density, inequality in the distribution of resources, lack of inclusiveness, and centralized governance mechanisms that make it difficult to respond quickly to situations. Thus, urban planning scholarship and practice should take an interdisciplinary approach to make cities equitable, inclusive, and adaptive.
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Cities in the developing world have an opportunity for more resilient renewal in the post-COVID world.
COVID-19 has shone a bright light on a number of failings and weaknesses in how current economic models handle information and knowledge. Some of these are familiar issues that have long been understood but not acted upon effectively – for example, the danger that current systems of intellectual property and patent protection are actually inimical to delivering a cost-effective vaccine available to all, whereas treating knowledge as a commons and a public good is much more likely to deliver efficient outcomes for the entire global population. But COVID-19 has also demonstrated that traditional models of knowledge production and dissemination are failing us; scientific knowledge is becoming weaponized and hyper-partisan, and confidence in this knowledge is falling. We believe that the challenges that COVID-19 has exposed in the information economy and ecology will be of increasing applicability across the whole spectrum of sustainability; sustainability scholars and policymakers need to understand and grasp them now if we are to avoid contagion into other sectors due to the preventable errors that have marred the global response to COVID-19.
The various crises that have emerged since 2000 are driven by an increasing maladaptation of our societies’ information processing capabilities to the dynamics in which our societies find themselves. These capabilities have been built up path dependently over centuries, and to understand them we need to look closely at their history. Changes in technology, demography and resource use and environmental change are all part of a co-evolution in which societies’ information processing capacities play a central role. The information and communications technology revolution has accelerated developments in all of these domains and has weakened some fundamental institutions. This paper discusses how these processes might affect the long-term future of our societies.
The ‘climate crisis’ describes human-caused global warming and climate change and its consequences. It conveys the sense of urgency surrounding humanity's failure to take sufficient action to slow down, stop and reverse global warming. The leading direct cause of the climate crisis is carbon dioxide (CO2) released as a by-product of burning fossil fuels,i which supply ~87% of the world's energy. The second most important cause of the climate crisis is deforestation to create more land for crops and livestock. The solutions have been stated as simply ‘leave the fossil carbon in the ground’ and ‘end deforestation’. Rather than address fossil fuel supplies, climate policies focus almost exclusively on the demand side, blaming fossil fuel users for greenhouse gas emissions. The fundamental reason that we are not solving the climate crisis is not a lack of green energy solutions. It is that governments continue with energy strategies that prioritize fossil fuels. These entrenched energy policies subsidize the discovery, extraction, transport and sale of fossil fuels, with the aim of ensuring a cheap, plentiful, steady supply of fossil energy into the future. This paper compares the climate crisis to two other environmental crises: ozone depletion and the COVID-19 pandemic. Halting and reversing damage to the ozone layer is one of humanity's greatest environmental success stories. The world's response to COVID-19 demonstrates that it is possible for governments to take decisive action to avert an imminent crisis. The approach to solving both of these crises was the same: (1) identify the precise cause of the problem through expert scientific advice; (2) with support by the public, pass legislation focused on the cause of the problem; and (3) employ a robust feedback mechanism to assess progress and adjust the approach. This is not yet being done to solve the climate crisis, but working within the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement framework, it could be. Every nation can contribute to solving the climate crisis by: (1) changing their energy strategy to green energy sources instead of fossil fuels; and (2) critically reviewing every law, policy and trade agreement (including transport, food production, food sources and land use) that affects the climate crisis.
COVID-19 has stimulated calls for a ‘global reset’ to address major global challenges and ‘build back better’. This Intelligence Briefing makes the case that the experience of COVID-19 itself, particularly the way it reverberated across multiple systems, shines light on the vital steps needed to advance a global reset. It brings together the evidence that the causes, severity and effects of COVID-19 cut across multiple interconnected systems, notably environmental, health, political, social, economic and food systems, as did the responses to it. All of these systems affected each other: responses implemented to address problems in one system inevitably led to effects on others. This Intelligence Briefing uses this evidence to identify five practical steps needed to advance a global reset. First, train systems leaders. Second, employ a new cadre of ‘systems connectors’. Third, identify solutions across systems. Fourth, manage trade-offs for the long and short term. Fifth, kick-start system redesign for co-benefits. Implementing these steps will be extraordinarily challenging, especially given the short-term imperative to ‘bounce back’. But for any business, organization, government or United Nations agency serious about addressing long-term sustainability challenges, the opportunity is there to use these five practical actions to press the global reset button.
Many countries are committed to emerge from COVID 19 on a more sustainable environmental footing. Here we explore what such a structurally transformative recovery would mean for the manufacturing sector of 14 major economies. We find that all countries have zero-carbon growth opportunities post-COVID and comparative advantages in some sectors, but industrialised countries and the East Asian economies, especially South Korea, appear best positioned, thanks a push in low-carbon innovation that predates the pandemic.