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The environmental impact of lockdown


The environmental impact of lockdown

Finding silver linings in the clouds caused by Covid-19 may seem like an impossible task, but there have been some.

The disruption created by the pandemic has resulted in positive effects on the environment.

The drastic reduction in global travel - nicknamed andropause -  has led to a significant drop in air and water pollution.

In China alone, lockdowns and other measures have resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and a 50 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions.

One scientist estimates these reductions may have saved at least 77,000 lives over the course of two months.

Positive steps to invest in sustainable energy transition and environmental protection are also being made.

The European Union has unveiled a seven-year €1 trillion budget proposal and €750 billion recovery plan, "Next Generation EU", which seeks to reserve a quarter of EU spending for climate-friendly expenditure.

Against these examples, there is also evidence that the pandemic has hampered environmental diplomacy efforts and created economic problems that some predict will hinder investment in green energy technologies.

According to the EEA Briefing 'COVID-19 and Europe's environment: impacts of a global pandemic’ while “lockdowns may have some direct, short-term, positive impacts on our environment, especially in terms of emissions and air quality... these are likely to be temporary.”

The briefing, which was published in November, highlights the urgent need to address environmental challenges.

It also notes that biodiversity loss and intensive food systems make zoonotic diseases more likely.

And it points out that increased reliance on single-use plastics and low oil prices resulting from lockdowns have negative consequences.

During the first lockdown, the sight of clear water in Venetian canals and wild animals roaming empty cities showed us that nature can recover and that it is possible to reverse environmental damage.

But whether governments and policymakers will recognise that silver lining as a signal to take the necessary action is different.

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