By Julieta Marino Tartaglino and Hemavathi S Shekhar
By the end of 2019, the world found itself facing a new threat never before experienced, a million questions unanswered, and a fear of the unknown that for a second created a sense of global community, COVID-19.
The pandemic brought to light how the world is not only unprepared to face global threats, but also how poor and developing countries don’t stand a fighting chance. While the vaccines provided a glimpse of hope, access to them also exposed a breach that is sadly all too common, especially for those who find themselves at the short side of the straw. Richer countries have the capacity to acquire vaccines, build infrastructure and hire new personnel to apply dose after dose and also have the privilege to let them go to waste. Developing countries have neither access to vaccines nor the ability to produce it and are still struggling to cope with the disaster COVID has become.
At the same time, the loss of income in many families has pushed them to poverty, while billionaires saw their fortunes increase like never before, so much so that the pandemic has been renamed the ‘Billionaire Pandemic’. This shows not only inequality but ‘Systemic Inequality’, that exists in various forms to various individuals. While millionaires increased their riches by $1.6 Trillion dollars in the last 13 months (Chuck Collins, Updates: Billionaire Wealth, U.S. Job Losses and Pandemic Profiteers, Inequality.org, April 2021), millions of people lost their jobs, and sources of income. The system works for the rich.
Now, what does this have to do with Climate Change? More than you would think.
Irrespective of the country, it is the rich ones that have recovered from the devastating impact of the virus quicker; they are also the biggest accelerators of the climate crisis by being the biggest emitters of carbon. The impact, however, is most seen on the poor ones and in the global south.
Just like no one is immune to the virus, climate change impacts everyone one way or another. However, the rich can escape the consequences while it continues to be devastating for the middle and the lower classes of individuals, and specially in poorer countries. Climate Injustice thrives in our current economic system.
The pandemic will end when the entire world population is vaccinated and protected against all it’s strains; but there is no vaccine for the Climate Crisis. The solution to climate emergency is systemic change through transformative policies, and control mechanisms.
What was once deemed impossible by governments, suddenly became a reality during the pandemic. The response to the pandemic has shown us that governments are actually capable of taking extreme measures, just like the ones needed to deal with the climate emergency. Global Solidarity shown by countries when India’s second wave hit hard is a glimmer of hope that exists for the much needed global cooperation by countries to tackle the Climate Crisis. Isn’t this exactly what we need to do to help developing and underdeveloped countries cope with the effects of climate change, that more often than not is insured by their unfair economic decisions?
Nonetheless, governments continue to allow the rich to increase their wealth while the poor suffer, and the question of using their wealth by taxing them accordingly, to save lives and help people come out of poverty, and possibly adapt to the future impact of climate change seems absurd and foolish.
For a second, the pandemic has given us an opportunity to have a look into the way the system could work and a glimpse into a society that serves everyone rather than just the wealthy.
But at last, the change is in the hands of governments, particularly in rich countries; we can only hope and push them to take the lead in creating a fair, just, and sustainable world.
Volunteer coordination coordinator