IBC on Environment and Climate Change issues recommendations on post COVID-19 building back better

The regional interagency Issue-based Coalition on Environment and Climate Change for Europe and Central Asia has just issued summary recommendations for COVID-19 recovery: “BUILDING BACK BETTER- pathways for a more inclusive, environmentally sustainable and resilient recovery”, drafted by the 3 co-leads of the coalition – UNECE, UNEP and UNESCO – with contributions by UNDP, UN Women, OHCHR, UNOPS and FAO – among other UN agencies, funds and programmes.

The document gives basic guidance to Resident Coordinators, UN Country Teams and other partners working in the region of Europe and Central Asia on the assessments of the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. The recommendations aim to guide on how to build back better in the post-pandemic times in line with environmental and climate sustainability goals since governments need to take decisions based on evidence and science.

The document addresses health and people protection, social cohesion and community resilience, economic response and recovery, with specific recommendations on environmental sustainability and green economy, sustainable consumption and production, clean energy transition, nature-based solutions and natural resources management.

The substantive elements of the right to sustainable environment – including a safe climate, water and sanitation, clean air, healthy and sustainably produced food, non-toxic environments, and healthy ecosystems and biodiversity – are prerequisites for human right, a healthy environment, waste management human health and resilience in the face of illness and for reducing the risk of zoonosis and expansion of existing disease vectors. In this regard, most of the measures dedicated to health and people protection are related to human rights, a healthy environment, waste management and circularity.

Fulfilling human rights, including a healthy environment, not only reduces disproportionate impacts but it also fosters more resilient societies. Climate-related natural hazards can disrupt essential public services, such as water and sanitation systems, which are crucial to managing public health emergencies. Climate change can exacerbate existing public health risks, for instance, by affecting the occurrence of infectious diseases and increasing exposure of some communities to vector-borne diseases.

As such the Coalition proposes a series of measures for building community resilience and disaster risk reduction. One of the recommended measures is to increase international support to countries in order to integrate disaster and climate risk considerations into governance, policy and actions that build resilience and reduce systemic risk, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. The post-pandemic recovery presents an opportunity to support improved social protection measures and a transition to a sustainable, inclusive, carbon-neutral, circular economy including the sustainable management of natural resources. One of the economic measures for response and recovery recommend the promotion of integrated and sustainable water resources management, including health and sanitation adopting a multi-sectoral approach.

Based on the feedback from the Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams, in the coming months, this initial guidance will be followed by more elaborated guidelines on practical measures to be adopted in post-pandemic recovery strategies. The Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams will then be able to rely to the 18-member strong coalition for more targeted support for pandemic socioeconomic assessments and post-pandemic recovery strategies.

UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, along with UNECE and UNEP, co-leads the 18-member issue-based coalition on Environment and Climate Change since its launch on 20 March 2020 at the Special Session of the Regional UN Meeting.

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