The coronavirus pandemic has presented us with one of the most acute challenges of our generation. However, it has also presented us with a unique opportunity to pursue economic recovery programs following the pandemic that incorporate strong sustainability and low-carbon measures. The world could effectively use the exit from COVID-19 to accelerate a green transition, and the commemoration of this year’s Earth Day has thus taken on an even deeper meaning.
In fact, there is a direct link between environmental crises, climate change, and the novel coronavirus. Experts have found that global warming has led to the emergence of new infectious zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, meaning that our current global pandemic is most probably tied to our planet’s grim environmental situation. This fact should serve as a strong and urgent call to action for all of us
For over a decade, the UN Environment Program has produced an “Emissions Gap Report” that analyzes the disparity between where greenhouse gas emissions should be by 2030 and where they are actually predicted to be based on our current trajectory. The 2020 report found that despite a “brief dip” in greenhouse gas emissions caused by the pandemic’s broad economic slowdown, the world is still headed towards a temperature rise of over 3 degrees this century, well above the goal of 1.5 degrees set out in the Paris Agreement.
But WHO will make up the best team to raise awareness of these issues, and more importantly, create real change? The answer is a combination of government, private sector, and NGOs. Therefore, as a representative of the state of Israel, I call on other diplomats and encourage them to take action. As representatives of foreign countries and figures who work to nurture bilateral relations, we must harness our resources to take global action. We have the power and capability to bring the key stakeholders and innovators together to share knowledge and make a difference.
Second, we need to ask ourselves — HOW? This year we might not be able to hold the Earth Day events physically but virtually, and we may not be able to meet stakeholders in person, but we can convey our messages and strengthen the perception in a way that resonates with our younger audiences- through Social Media. That is why Israel’s diplomatic missions will be launching a global campaign to mark the occasion, highlighting the many innovative and cutting-edge solutions that Israel has provided to address global problems.
And the third question is: WHERE? Thanks to the world’s growing familiarity with virtual events, many of our best efforts will be available for all to see. Whether opening a community garden in Beijing, cleaning beaches in Spain, educating new biology and sustainability graduates in Rwanda, or holding an online panel on Israeli solutions for sustainably recovering from the coronavirus pandemic in Delhi, anyone can witness Israeli diplomats truly acting at the forefront of this year’s Earth Day.
And that brings us back to our international partners. While we are holding so many of our own events virtually, we are also partnering with stakeholders from prominent locations this year. A virtual diplomatic climate conference will be held in partnership with ten consulates in New York who see climate, environment, and sustainability as top priorities and wish to promote international cooperation on these issues. The consulates joining together include Israel, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Canada, France, Greece, Germany, Finland, Belgium, and Panama.
With all of the hardships that the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted upon us, it has also provided us with a unique opportunity to change our ways moving forward. We only have one planet, and we must all work together to protect it.