TSC Blog

July 09, 2020 / by Jerome Kusters / In Sustainability

TSC Thursdays - Next Three Months, an Ultimate Opportunity to Transform Food Systems and Achieve Climate Commitments

TSC Thursdays is a weekly TSC blog post with top trending news and issues pertaining to UN Sustainable Goals. TSC’s SDG COVID Impact Dashboard applies our proprietary models and methodologies to filter the global chatter through a dynamic issue taxonomy to track and visualize COVID-19's impact across 17 SDGs in real-time. For more insights on global SDG commitment, sentiment and activity explore our SDG COVID Impact Dashboard here: https://sdg-covid.tsc.ai



TSC's SDG COVID Impact Dashboard identified "Air Quality Health Index" as this week’s strongest emerging topic within the Health Theme. In the early months of the pandemic, air pollution was linked with a higher number of casualties, and lockdown measures were believed to dramatically have improved air quality across the globe, but only lasted for a short while. Now the same topic is becoming increasingly more central to emerging debates around long-term shifts in agricultural practices, environmental protection and regulation.



1

Direct intervention is necessary to prevent a catastrophe during fire season. Will this be the turning point in transforming to sustainable food systems?

The current pandemic is casting a shadow over this year’s upcoming fire season, which generally peaks in the months of July, August and September. This could be to our peril as air pollution from seasonal, human-induced forest fires is likely to seriously exacerbate the pandemic's impact in tropical countries.


Smog from Indonesian island of Sumatra has reportedly reached four provinces in the southern part of Thailand on July 5th, whereas the Pantanal region in Brazil has been on fire for the past 7 days. With the world fighting a pandemic, there are legitimate fears that the upcoming fire season can be the worst we have seen yet:

  1. The resulting haze from these fires will complicate respiratory illnesses linked to COVID
  2. Forced evacuations to communal emergency housing, especially when there are less than ideal sanitary conditions, will render people very susceptible to rapid spread of COVID
  3. Reallocation of disaster mitigation funds for the pandemic could position authorities in a more ill-prepared position than previous years, and allow fires and their larger consequences to kick off faster and spread further

To avoid a health catastrophe in regions that are expected to suffer from this year’s fire season, it is considered crucial to step up multi-stakeholder COVID response measures - especially in providing access to clean water and sanitation.

If there is a time to collectively address the problem of annual forest fires, this will likely be the best time to do so. In the upcoming months local authorities and the corporate sector will be presented the opportunity to provide concerted action to strengthen sustainability commitments, and transform our food systems toward regenerative models of agriculture and away from monoculture plantations that currently threaten the existence of tropical forests.

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2

Will air quality awareness amidst the pandemic be the final push to implement EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy?

A recent YouGov poll commissioned by the Clean Air Fund across the UK, Bulgaria, India, Nigeria and Poland showed more than 90% of respondents in Nigeria and India wanted to see air quality improved, whereas two-thirds of Britons support stricter laws to tackle pollution after the pandemic. Likewise in Italy, for long Europe’s pandemic hotspot, strong support is being voiced towards similar measures.

Yet recent studies show that levels of nitrogen dioxide are rebounding strongly in European capitals as countries start reopening their economies. The European Commission estimates that a majority of member states are off-target to deliver on their air pollution reduction commitments for 2020 and 2030, and urges member states to step up climate commitment efforts.

The Commission's recently proposed Farm to Fork Strategy emphasizes on climate-smart and regenerative agricultural practices and aims to to reduce ammonia emissions by cutting the EU's fertiliser use by 20% in the next decade. Will increased air quality awareness prove sufficient to integrate the Farm to Fork strategy in the soon to be reviewed EU’s Common Agricultural Policy? If the European Union manages to put in place a framework that integrates healthy and environmentally-friendly food systems into its value chains, it will set the example for others to follow.

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Navigate the SDG COVID Impact Dashboard for a snapshot of SDG and thematic insights, or request a demo.


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