Skopje, 21 May 2020 (MIA) – This online conference is being held during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Not only should the pandemic defocus us from addressing climate change, but it could also give us a new perspective on the issue, President Stevo Pendarovski said Thursday in his address at the 15th Annual International Conference on European Integration – AICEI 2020 on “Climate Change – Challenges and Building Resilience”, organized by University American College – Skopje.
“The pandemic has led to a slowdown or to a complete closure of some industries, production processes and transportation in many parts of the world. In the short term, it has a positive effect on the environment. Oxford Analytics estimates that ‘carbon dioxide emissions will be significantly reduced in 2020 as a result of the prolonged cessation of many economic activities.’ NASA and European Space Agency satellites have confirmed that, in the case of the People’s Republic of China alone, nitrogen dioxide levels (NO2) have been reduced by 40%,” Pendarovski said.
This data, the President underlined, unequivocally confirm two things. First, that man is responsible for the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And second, that nature can still, in a relatively short time, restore part of the disturbed balance.
“However, many experts rightly warn that it is too early to celebrate. The world is yet to face an economic crisis in which many governments and companies will make compromises at the expense of the environmental and climate agenda. The World Economic Forum has also confirmed in its April 2020 Report that although many in the pandemic see a possibility of decisive steps to restructure economies, industries, technology and lifestyle, in line with the principles of sustainable development, priority will be given to businesses and jobs. This means that we will restore the imbalance in a very short time,” Pendarovski said.
He added that as long as fossil fuels are at the heart of the global energy system, we will have an unsustainable economic model of growth and development. Therefore, our economic and technical-technological development must become climate neutral.
“Science, technology, innovation are a very important part of the solution, but they are not the whole solution. If we hope that the new technology will allow us to continue our old habits, we will only make things worse. To build resilience to the effects of climate change, in addition to sustainable technology, we need sustainable habits. And habits are acquired and spread through education. International agreements and conventions on sustainable development and climate action, including the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, emphasize the same thing – integrated environmental education is necessary to raise social awareness and establish sustainable habits,” Pendarovski said.
If we really want to build sustainable habits, the President added, education must promote sustainability ethics. Climate ethics cannot be reduced to scientific knowledge and technological solutions only. We must awaken individual and collective consciousness and conscience for common good.
“First, synergy between natural and social sciences is needed. Climate change is not just a physical phenomenon. With our development model, we have encouraged climate change. Therefore, as a hybrid, physical-cultural phenomenon, climate change should be addressed not only by environmentalists and economists, but also by sociologists, anthropologists, ethicists, philosophers… Only with interdisciplinary approach will we develop climate ethics, which will help us properly understand our attitude towards the planet, towards people, and towards the future,” Pendarovski said.
Second, he underlined, solidarity is needed in society. In every country, including ours, climate action should cover as many segments of society as possible.
“That is why I supported the ‘Don’t Ignore, React!’ platform, which brings together experts from different fields, civic activists, environmentalists, public opinion creators, the media and individuals, to address the problems we face as a community,” the President said.
“Third, solidarity between states is necessary. Climate change is a challenge that exceeds the capacity of each individual state. We have signed and ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. According to the so-called Green Deal, the European Commission has pledged to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Moreover, during my official visit to Austria last year, I supported the climate initiative of the Austrian President, Alexander Van der Bellen,” Pendarovski noted.
Fourth, he underlined, trans-generation solidarity is necessary. Our generation must give up some of the comforts in life so that future generations can live at all.
“That is a major challenge for politics as we know it. Politicians and governments are not always ready to support unpopular policies whose positive results will be felt in the long run when someone else is in power. However, climate change and pollution cannot be daily political issues. Therefore, as President, I have proposed that we pursue a supra-party state strategy to mitigate the negative effects of this phenomenon. I supported the commitment of the civil society sector for increased state budget funds for environmental protection in order to get closer to the average of the European Union member states. Furthermore, although it was in its final stages, before I signed the Defense Strategy, I asked the competent authorities to supplement it with a special section on environmental safety measures and activities,” the President said in his address.
He expressed belief that with social, political and international solidarity, we will be able to change some of our everyday, production and consumer habits so that we can reduce at least some of the causes of climate change.