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Dhaka Tribune

‘The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t mean the climate crisis has gone away’

Prof Saleemul Huq in conversation with the Fridays for the Future International network on positioning climate talks amidst pandemic

Update : 16 Jun 2020, 05:05 PM

Influential Bangladeshi climate activist Prof Saleemul Huq talked about the ongoing pandemic and climate change in a webinar on June 13th organized by Fridays for Future (FFF), a global youth climate action network. The Lead Author of the IPCC assessment report on Adaptation Prof Saleemul Huq spoke to the youth of FFF and thousands of young people that participated in the from across the globe, according to a press release. 

Prof Huq said that the destruction of biodiversity and inefficiency in preserving the natural ecosystems has caused the spread of zoonotic diseases, the emergence of Covid-19 is the case on point. 

Huq discussed social distancing in the poor neighbourhoods in densely populated countries such as Bangladesh and India. “If slum dwellers are forced to stay in their shacks, and makeshift shelters in the slums, do social distancing actually work for them?” he asked. 

Moreover, people who are in the lower income segment have lost access to their livelihood. So many millions of slum dwellers in the big cities - in India and Bangladesh in particular - have left the cities for their home towns because they simply can’t continue to live where they are and it’s very difficult for the authorities to even know who they are. This has created a major negative impact on millions of people particularly for the slum dwellers in big cities.

Though Covid-19 and the climate crisis the two are not connected, yet the impact that it is causing and the solutions that we have to ensure are very similar, he told the online audience. Both of the crises impact the vulnerable communities, the people who are already vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are also vulnerable to Covid-19. 

“We need to take them into account as we come up with the solutions under adapting to the new normal. We need to apply a ‘new normal’ in our approach to tackling the climate emergency as our planetary crisis continues to escalate. The climate-related disasters causing death, disease and displacement aren’t taking a break simply because a global pandemic is ongoing,” said Huq. 

Just because there is a public health crisis, doesn’t mean the climate change crisis has gone away. “We just have an extra crisis,” he said. 

Huq says it became evident after the recent cyclone Amphan that loss and damage from human-induced climate change is no longer something that is going to happen in the future, but it is already happening.  

Huq said the rapid spread of Covid-19 made it obvious that we need to abandon the old, normal way of dealing with global crises. 

The three major lessons that the world should learn from this crisis are: That we have to listen to science and value key workers who implement the, building a greener environment, and building global solidarity on the common crisis that is climate change, said Huq, who was listed among World’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy, put out by the global policy service platform Apolitical.

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