What lessons does COVID-19 offer for sustainability?

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted swift and forceful actions by governments and societies around the world. A European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing reflects on these responses and the link between the pandemic and the environment to draw lessons that could be used in making societies more sustainable.

Read the press release here and the full briefing here.

Key messages

  • COVID-19 can be seen as a ‘late lesson’ from an early warning. Environmental degradation increases the risk of pandemics. COVID-19 emerged and escalated through the complex interplay between drivers of change, such as ecosystem disturbance, urbanisation, international travel and climate change.
  • The pandemic has shown that our societies have immense potential for collective action and change when faced with a perceived emergency.
  • Thus far, the unprecedented agency shown by governments in responding to COVID-19 does not seem to have greatly served the cause of sustainability.
  • Human health and environmental integrity are intertwined. A transition to a sustainable society and economy is necessary to protect human health.
  • To ‘build back better’, society and governments must reflect on what to do differently and what to stop doing altogether.

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