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Senior WHO Advisor Urges a Climate Action Response to Covid-19

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A senior executive advisor to the United Nations World Health Organization, which is supposed to be coordinating the global response to the Chinese Coronavirus Pandemic, has just urged nations to embrace climate action as part of their response to the outbreak.

How climate change and the coronavirus are linked

02 Apr 2020
Arthur Wyns Climate change advisor, World Health Organization

The coronavirus pandemic may lead to a deeper understanding of the ties that bind us on a global scale.

Well-resourced healthcare systems are essential to protect us from health security threats, including climate change.

The support to resuscitate the economy after the pandemic should promote health, equity, and environmental protection.

We live in an age in which intersecting crises are being lifted to a global scale, with unseen levels of inequality, environmental degradation and climate destabilization, as well as new surges in populism, conflict, economic uncertainty, and mounting public health threats. All are crises that are slowly tipping the balance, questioning our business-as-usual economic model of the past decades, and requiring us to rethink our next steps.

There are, to a certain degree, parallels that can be drawn between the current COVID-19 pandemic and some of the other contemporary crises our world is facing. All require a global-to-local response and long-term thinking; all need to be guided by science and need to protect the most vulnerable among us; and all require the political will to make fundamental changes when faced with existential risks.

In this sense, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic may lead to a deeper understanding of the ties that bind us all on a global scale and could help us get to grips with the largest public health threat of the century, the climate crisis.

At the World Health Organization (WHO), where I am part of the climate change team, we are seeing the devastating consequences of under-prepared health systems when they are faced with these increasingly regular shocks. Some of these health impacts have a clear climate change signature, such as the increasing frequency and strength of extreme weather eventsor the expanding range and spread of vector-borne diseases like malaria or dengue. For others, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the connection with climate change is less clear cut.

When we eventually overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, we can hopefully hold on to that sense of shared humanity in order to rebuild our social and economic systems to make them better, more resilient, and compassionate. The financial and social support packages to maintain and eventually resuscitate the global economy post-pandemic should therefore promote health, equity, and environmental protection.

Arthur Wyns is a climate change advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO). He writes in a personal capacity, his views do not necessarily represent WHO or any of its member states.

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If there is one organization which is not fit for purpose, other than the Chinese Communist Party, that organization is the WHO.

As late as March, the WHO resisted calls to declare the Chinese Coronavirus a global pandemic. “Unless we’re convinced it’s uncontrollable, why (would) we call it a pandemic?” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in early March. Even CNN criticised Tedros Ghebreyesus’s fawning praise for China’s incompetence, coverups and lies.

Not content with displaying an utter lack of leadership in our hour of need, the WHO’s climate change advisor is now seeking to exploit global fear of the deadly Chinese disease to promote his organization’s climate change agenda.

When the Chinese Coronavirus is finally contained there will be a reckoning. If the WHO had done their job instead of playing politics, many lives would have been spared. The world deserves better than this.