The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world in crucible. The economies, health systems, and the education are in the process of creating habits for the “new normal” that, when we are at it, mustn’t ignore the environment and the fight against the climate change. There are cries that are getting louder and louder that the pandemics are the unavoidable evil that awaits us in the future, unless we redirect the economy and the political towards green development.

The healthy living environment has been long considered one of the pillars of democracy and human rights, and now the governments worldwide will have to prove that with decisive action. They will have to set more ambitious goals for decreasing the emissions of greenhouse gases, and they will have an opportunity to do that at the next Climate Changes Summit.

Even the European Union, which is a leader in the climate policies, can set more ambitious goals and it has resources and technical capacities to achieve them. Two of the biggest environmental networks in Europe have proven that EU’s target of 40% decrease of greenhouse gas emission by 2030 is a modest one and that EU can achieve 65% decrease and totalclimate neutrality with zero emissions of greenhouse gasses by 2040 without leaving space for a scenario that includes fossil fuels, which should be the principle in climate and energy scenarios.

Major changes on all levels in society including business and politics are urgent and necessary to avoid the devastating effects of climate change and the degradation of the environment. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy warns that we need effective and responsible democratic institutions, responsible managing systems, and strong political will. Even though we have managed to prove that human activity has a dangerous effect on the climate and our ecosystems, still, the majority of political systems aren’t able to solve the ecological crisis. The efficient management of the environment and the rule of law are key for the support for sustainable development and inclusive democratic rule.

Antonio Jovanovski, Go Green | Photo: personal archive

According to Antonio Jovanovski from the Go Green civic organization from North Macedonia, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the humanity has difficulties in managing crises and sudden changes, that societies are very vulnerable and that the economic model is unsustainable and inflexible. The world in general is in health, economic, climate, and environmental crises, and all of these categories are interlinked. The climate and environmental crisis, especially in the Western Balkan countries, are tightly linked with air pollution, and that is linked with the health crisis i.e. the increased vulnerability to COVID-19 virus and higher death rates.

“The economic model that is based on growth and is measured with GDP is in direct conflict with the decrease of climate change, since in the current system the economic growth denotes an increase of greenhouse emissions. We are tied in a model that is supporting itself and is speeding up, and if we don’t make more ambitious and more courageous decisions, especially in the area of decrease of greenhouse gas emission and adjustment to climate changes, we may find ourselves in a more vulnerable situation than now,” considers Jovanovski.

The actions taken by governments of the signatories of the Climate Change Agreement from Paris are not enough to secure a future where we will be protected from pandemics and environmental catastrophes. Elena Nikolovska of Eco-Svest association from North Macedonia says that the revision of National contributions for the climate at the United Nations shows that with the activities planned by the governments, the planet’s temperature will be increased even by 4 degrees Celsius, even though the goal is 1.5 degrees.

Elena Nikolovska, Eco-conscious | Photo: personal archive

“Each country must increase its ambitions and meet its obligations. Macedonia must speed up and increase the production of energy from renewable resources, to work more actively to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, to stop turning agricultural land into construction or industrial zones. Macedonia still hasn’t established an efficient system for waste selection and treatment and the new laws are only modestly solving the issue, which is even a bigger problem. A system is planned for separating the dry from the wet waste, but it is considered outdated, instead of striving towards a real selection and to use the garbage as much as we can as a secondary raw material,” said Nikolovska.

So far, says Jovanovski, the warming has reached around one degree centigrade and if we continue with this tempo and ambitions, we shall surpass the red line in ten years from now. This will activate all irreversible processes such as, for instance. the melting of the ice in Siberia, which will release enormous quantities of methane, the most powerful greenhouse gas.

“The economic model must be restructured and a new indicator for success must be found instead of GDP, since what we measure today as economic success includes cutting forests and sick patients purchasing medications. The current economic model is in direct conflict with the social-environmental transformation, which is another key process, and it denotes protection of the living environment with principles of social justice and equality. The current economic model is increasing the gap between the rich and the poor, and in times of crisis, the poor are hit the most, and they have contributed the least for the crisis to emerge. There has to be a model that will be based on sharing, equality, and solidarity. We have good examples of this model in energy communities that are leading the energy transition in Europe,” considers Jovanovski.