What lessons does COVID-19 offer for sustainability?


The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted swift and forceful actions by governments and societies around the world. A European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing reflects on these responses and the link between the pandemic and the environment to draw lessons that could be used in making societies more sustainable.

The EEA briefing ’COVID-19: lessons for sustainability?’ reflects on the lessons learned from the ongoing pandemic and how they can inspire societies to step-up efforts towards sustainability.

The briefing notes that environmental degradation increases the risk of pandemics so the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as an example of a ‘late lesson’ from and early warning. At the same time, the pandemic has shown that societies have the necessary potential for collective action and change when faced with a perceived emergency.

The world is currently characterised by multiple global crises, which are highly interconnected and require fundamental, systemic changes to address the underpinning forces driving them. COVID-19 has triggered rapid and forceful action by governments, but so far fundamental sustainability challenges have not triggered sufficient action. To ‘build back better’, society and governments should reflect on what to do differently and what to stop doing altogether, the EEA briefing states.

The new briefing is part of the ‘Narratives for change’ series, which brings new perspectives to the fore that could trigger change in the way we think and act towards sustainability.



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