The entire world is currently facing one of the worst pandemics in human history. The spread of the COVID-19 virus does not only have an impact on the health systems and economies of all nations, but also on the environment. There are some positive and negative environmental repercussions.
In 2004, the Kyoto Protocol was created, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions as a way to tackle climate change. No internal measure taken by any of the subscribing states of this protocol has had such an impact on the reduction of emission levels as COVID-19 has had as a consequence of the decrease in the use of fuels in production and transport activities. According to Carbon Brief, based on the images captured by satellites, China’s emissions had a 25% reduction in February of this year in comparison with last year. The reduction of CO2 emissions worldwide represents a relief to the planet, since it is one of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
Rob Jackson, president of the Global Carbon Project, organization responsible for making annual emissions estimates, recently said that CO2 emissions could have 5% reduction this year, something that has not happened since World War II. The last major reduction in emission levels was during the 2008 financial crisis, when CO2 emissions decreased 1.4%; but as there was no structural change in the global industry immediately after the crisis, the level of emissions rose 5.1%.
On April 13, the Ministry of the Environment reported that the level of particulate matter in the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador for the period between March 30 and April 12 was less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Particulate matter is particles of dust, dirt, soot, smoke, etc., so its reduction results in satisfactory air quality.
In addition to emissions, it is relevant to mention the impact on waste generation. The treatment of all infected and suspected contagion people, the application of tests and the prevention of COVID-19 implicate the increased generation of common waste and medical waste, which requires special treatment. The separation and disposal of medical waste corresponds to the institution that generates it. But there is also an increase in common waste as a result of home quarantine, so it is the obligation of natural persons to separate waste, at least, between organic and non-organic, as established in article 31 of the Law for the Comprehensive Management of Waste and Recycling Promotion that recently came into effect in our country on March 9th of this year, published in the Official Journal on February 27th.
It is important that we all assume an active role in this crisis and do our part to make the least possible impact on the environment with the generation of waste, not only with food or similar waste, but also with the proper treatment of disposable goods, such as masks and gloves, whose use has increased recently. Deposit the garbage in its place, separate it according to its nature (special attention should be made on the disposable masks and gloves that are very common these days, and which should be also place separately) and try to reduce the amount of garbage we generate are some recommendations that we should follow.
The impact that COVID-19 is having worldwide on the environment represents a relief for the planet in terms of emissions, which should lead us to think of plans and strategies to change production and industrial processes in a way that we cause the least negative impact on our planet. It is a mistake to think that the responsibility to reduce emissions rests solely with the large industries, since each person can make their contribution, for example by seeking adequate maintenance for vehicles to avoid excessive emissions.