The Echo – Climate Newsletter # 5: Covid Recovery Edition

We need to tap into Africa’s abundant renewable energy potential to rebuild after Covid-19.

A roundup of local, regional and international climate and environmental news. This week we’re looking at the growing need to focus on social and climate justice measures when planning for global socio-economic recovery efforts.

As Eswatini registers swift increases in COVID-19 cases (currently 116 ) we find ourselves entering stricter national lockdown measures. Please observe the correct social distancing precautions – stay safe, and stay home wherever possible. 

Climate Action & Collective Coronavirus Recovery

Many of the world’s leading institutions and policy-makers are starting to realise the need for “climate-focused” socio-economic recovery strategies after the coronavirus lockdown

  • This hopeful take from the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa outlines how the global response to COVID-19 sets the scene for collectively dealing with the climate crisis: 

“With the inevitable rise in unemployment that the economic impacts of Covid-19 will result in, an African economic rebound based on resilience and powered by the continent’s abundant clean energy resources will create more jobs, enhance trade and contribute to global climate action, while addressing the continent’s chronic energy access deficit.”

Hottest Year 

  •  “The climate crisis continues unabated. The emissions will go down this year, but the concentrations keep on rising.” This year is on track to be the hottest year on record. The year that Eswatini was hard hit by a devastating drought, 2016 currently holds the record for the hottest year due to an unusually intense El Nino cycle that compounded global heating. 2020 is likely to be hotter, many believe.

Pollution: Even more Worrying During COVID-19 

  • Research is continuing to point towards the risk of air pollution in making the coronavirus more deadly. Other studies, meanwhile, are exploring the worrying fact that the coronavirus is being detected on particles of air pollution
  • Next door in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, power producer and biggest polluter in Africa, Eskom has “lied to hide its deadly levels of pollution.” According to a compliance notice issued by the South African government, pollution levels are at a staggering thirteen times the legal limit. The enterprise admits that the air pollution it causes kills more than 300 people a year. Other estimates place the count at ten times that.
  • Despite drops in air pollution, and the clearing up of some aspects of the environment, let’s be honest – there is a long way to go. This excerpt from another important article by George Monbiot puts the need for increased action into perspective:

“The current crisis gives us a glimpse of how much we need to do to pull out of our disastrous trajectory. Despite the vast changes we have made in our lives, global carbon dioxide emissions are likely to reduce by only about 5.5% this year. A UN report shows that to stand a reasonable chance of avoiding 1.5C or more of global heating, we need to cut emissions by 7.6% per year for the next decade. In other words, the lockdown exposes the limits of individual action. Travelling less helps, but not enough. To make the necessary cuts we need structural change. This means an entirely new industrial policy, created and guided by governments.”

Don’t Mess with My Future: Gen Z’ers at a climate March in Mbabane last year. Not only does this generation face a world shaped by a changing climate, but they are also now entering a world changed by this pandemic.

Twin Crises for Gen Z 

  • Generation Z, those born after 1996, is already being defined as generation climate change. But how will the pairing of two overwhelming disasters and the economic hardship, the ecosystem collapse and social turmoil that comes with them shape the lives of the next generation? National geographic finds out. 

Plastic: Unbanned

  • Bans on single use-plastic have been waived in some parts of the world – as single-use plastic is seen to be more hygienic in the current situation than reusing items of any kind. Will this see a spike in plastics use – when will this end, and what happens afterwards

Warmer Climate, More Disease 

  • Not only does human destruction of habitats expose us to more diseases, but climate change is also disrupting patterns of animal behaviour including that of bats, from which COVID-19 originated. Changing animal distributions due to global heating are likely to expose us to even more diseases. 

Leadership during Crises 

Planet of the Humans: Controversial or Harmful? 

  • Michael Moore’s recently released a documentary on renewable energy: Planet of the Humans is an immensely controversial film and has polarised the climate community. Many scientists and campaigners have described it as “dangerous, misleading and destructive” and say it should be removed from public viewing. For instance, Naomi Klein said:  “It is truly demoralising how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change.” Planet of the humans has “has so many inaccuracies that its distributor pulled it down, only to re-post it a few days later with corrections and a misinformation warning.” Much of the information the film cites has been shown to be outdated or willfully misleading, critics say. Nevertheless, it has gained a huge amount of traction and has over six million views… 

Meanwhile, it seems that CNN (contrary to most American news outlets) has released its own documentary on the climate crisis, which some say is “one of the very best pieces of climate journalism ever run by a mainstream US news organization”. 

Online Campaigns and Climate Action 

  • Looking for ways to engage in more climate action?  The Climate Reality Project has put together a useful guide to climate action in 2020. 

Send feedback or ideas to Let us know if you’re interested in contributing to articles (particularly Eswatini-focused news and information). Stay safe and healthy by continuing to follow the WHO guidelines for correct personal and public health measures

— All the best, 

Maru & Dane