The Covid-19 pandemic has already infected 6,057,853 people in 148 countries, resulting in more than 371,166 deaths. In record time, it has transformed into an economic and labour market shock, impacting not only supply (production of goods and services) but also demand (consumption and investment) at an alarming rate, as we continue to watch on the sidelines, in utter and complete powerlessness.
Disruptions to production, initially in Asia have now spread to supply chains across the world, such as in the Middle East, via the European Union (EU), and also further west to the United States of America (USA), Latin America and Canada, and also over the African continent. All businesses, regardless of size, are facing unparalleled and considerably severe challenges, especially those in the hard-hit industries of aviation, tourism and hospitality, with a real threat of significant current and future declines in revenue, insolvencies and job losses in the above sectors and beyond.
The tourism, hospitality and airline industries have been the hardest hit, and it would have been unimaginable, that contrary to leading think tanks predicting a spike global travel trends in the tourism industry at the beginning of the year 2020, we would find ourselves in a global travel shutdown three months into this new decade.
The immediate consequence of the shutting down of airports and the closing down of hotel chains across the globe has been a staggering lowering in CO2 emissions. Elsewhere, industries, which rely massively on fossil fuels for their energy sources, have either closed down or are operating on a reduced basis. At the same time, we have seen reports that Nature is using this time to heal and rejuvenate herself, as if using this incredible period «pour faire peau neuve». However, there have also been stark warnings that the presumable healing of the world during the pandemic has not really been all rosy: for example, poaching and deforestation in the Amazon forests and elsewhere have reportedly been on the rise since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
The paradigm shift that we are witnessing as a consequence of the Coronavirus pandemic, urges humanity to use the lessons of this sanitary and health crisis to warn policy and legal experts in the field of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), environmental and climate change law and diplomacy. Even in the wake of the unprecedented sanitary and health international crisis that we are facing, governments should not put the battle against climate change on the back-burner, nor neglect the fulfillment of their duties under their international environmental law obligations, including several environmental and climate change related conventions and treaties, notably the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, putting these obligations as a second set of priorities once the wheels of action to attempt to rescue the economy and steer towards financial recovery and economic progress have been set in motion.
It has been argued that throughout the pandemic, fossil fuel lobbyists have been encouraging governments to use the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse not to meet their obligations under international and national environmental law. As a response to this, several organisations working for the protection of the environment have written open letters to their leaders, to urge them not to make a U-turn on the need to roll back conservation policies and legislations. For example, a coalition of environmental organisations based in California, USA, have written to Governor Gavin Newson, Senate President Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, to urge them “not to delay or weaken standards that project public health, air and climate”, in a letter dated 31 March 2020.
As an academic working on SDGs and Environmental & Climate Change Law and Policy and a young climate and environmental activist, I urge states and their respective political leader not to relegate the implementation of the SDGs to the background: in other words, the 17 SDGs should be given as much, if not more, importance, as Gross Domestic Products, so that we can proudly say that we have learned from the lessons of the new Coronavirus pandemic to build the post Covid-10 New World Order which is in symbiosis and sync with every aspect of our rich biodiversity, ecology and natural surroundings.
I also beseech the Mauritian government, as we have taken steps towards gradual deconfinement and in preparation for the Budget 2020/2021, to propose a green stimulus package that would create jobs in response to rising unemployment due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. This green package would ensure that we are on board to reducing emissions and pave the way for Mauritius and its citizens to be resilient in the face of any crisis.
It is proposed that through the lens of policy, national and international law, international relations and diplomacy perspectives, policy-makers and global leaders should pave the way in formulating innovative, adaptive, and effective legal and diplomatic global responses in implementing robust legislation and policy strategies and models to balance countries’ pursuit of economic recovery with the sustainable developing goals, and the implementation and enforcement of international environment and climate change law, both at the local and international levels. The government has to work hand in hand with the private sector and civil society, as well as each individual, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, to prevent another crisis, the climate and environment crisis, from turning into a nightmare.
It is time for sovereign states to learn from their hesitancy and lethargy in enacting strict and effective environmental and climate change legislation to devise local and international policies and legal strategies to imagine a post Covid-19 world that would embrace ecological, environmental and sustainable development considerations, in a speedy and adaptative way, as the world everyday wakes up to more devastating economic and medical news.
Behavioural change and systematic transformation are needed to halt the climate crisis and arguably, this cannot be achieved solely through individual action: for example, driving your car less or attending a meeting through the online platform Zoom rather than taking a business flight is not going to be enough. More fundamentally, structural change could occur if we reimagine the way our cities are built and organized, to make space for walking and cycling, to use cleaner public transport, and to construct climate-smart and innovative buildings, to invest in smart-agriculture such as photovoltaic farming, for instance.
If we can say that this pandemic has proven to be a tipping point in public consciousness, can we dare expect a meaningful shift in environmental and climate policy, to envision and dream of a green, safe and healthy world for the enjoyment of this and the next generations? The stage is set for a brighter future, and there is a glimmer of hope ahead, I dare say.
Krishnee Adnarain Appadoo
Lecturer in Environmental and Climate Change Law and Policy
The University of Mauritius
 WHO (2020), Coronavirus Situation Report, available [online]. at https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200601-covid-19-sitrep-133.pdf?sfvrsn=9a56f2ac_4, accessed on 02 June 2020
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Thusgaard (2020), Sustainable Tourism Development, Government of Denmark, Copenhagen, available [online]. at https://www.citynationplace.com/covid-19-the-climate-change-emergency-recovery-planning-for-a-more-sustainable-future, accessed on 08 May 2020