Implications of COVID-19 for the Environment and Sustainability (Version 2): Perspectives from the Triple R (Response, Recovery, Redesign) Framework

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COVID-19 has morphed from a dangerous regional health threat to an all-consuming global pandemic and economic disaster. COVID-19’s rapid spread has had far-reaching implications on the everyday lives of people in nearly all corners of the world. In fact, as of October 2020, at least 50 million people globally have tested positive for the virus, and the official death toll exceeds a 1.5 million people. These numbers are rapidly growing as cold weather causes more people to come together indoors in the Northern Hemisphere. The sharp increase underlines the need for governments at all levels to coordinate cross-cutting and cross-boundary response and recovery programs. 

Based upon the above understanding, IGES published its first position paper on this subject, entitled, ”Implications of COVID-19 for the Environment and Sustainability” in May 2020 (IGES, 2020), after which relevant analyses and activities have been carried out. Moreover, in collaboration with national governments, international organisations, and other partner institutes, IGES has contributed to the establishment of several relevant platforms and prepared necessary guidelines on risk management.

Considering the progress achieved from May to November, this position paper (version 2) revisits how to factor environmental and sustainability concerns into decisions related to COVID-19 . The paper focuses on issues particularly relevant to the pandemic such as medical waste management, wildlife-human relationships, and the adverse effects of air pollution, as they have substantial bearings on strengthening resilience in the future. In addition, a few untapped strategies such as changes in lifestyles and working arrangements are highlighted for bolstering future decarbonisation efforts.

The first position paper analysed COVID-19 and its implications from a short-term, medium-term and long-term perspective and suggested future actions. This paper builds on that initial analysis with a new framework called the "Triple R Framework (Response, Recovery, and Redesign)” (Zusman E. et al. 2020) and proposes a set of integrated and coherent measures based on that framework.