Since early 2020, Covid-19 has changed the world in a way we could never have imagined.
With millions of people infected and hundreds of thousands of deaths, attention is focused on a way out of the current crisis that is still severely affecting private life and global economy. The focus is on finding a cure and better restoring the economy.
Maybe more green and more human ..?
Long before WHO has informed us about the airborne spread of the virus (1), it became clear that people living in certain limited conditions could be significantly more susceptible to the disease (2,3), and as the COVID19 crisis continued, ‘fatal inequalities’ became increasingly apparent (4).
Poor communities, coloured or indigenous peoples not only suffer from inadequate health services and pre-existing diseases that increase their exposure to the virus, but often also live in places that are polluted by the environment.
Air pollution from various sources such as traffic, local burns and forest fires, but also from industry, affects the health of people living next to emission epicentres and more and more all of us. Globally it kills an estimated 7 million people a year and, according to WHO, 9 out of 10 people breathe air with high levels of pollutants (5), making us vulnerable to attackers like COVID19, which specifically target the weakened immune system and lungs (6).
The global fight against air pollution requires a special focus in low and middle income countries, where health systems are often underdeveloped and the catch up in economic growth is taking its toll.
While many of these countries have guidelines along with international commitments to reduce key sources of air pollution, they often lack implementation and necessary clean investment.
If we take the example of Indonesia, which today has the world’s fourth largest population with 273 million people, we can see a developed Asian nation, a G20 member with very respectable economic growth ahead of Covid19.
The success story of the resource-rich country is partly due to massive investments in the production industry. Many investments are foreign investments from China, Japan, Korea, the United States, Europe and other parts of the world. It is a traditional heavy industry or basic consumer goods industry that feeds the strong domestic growth engine.
The technologies used are not always state of the art. Some investors build industrial workbenches for their products with little investment based on old or specially “adapted technologies”.
While the government has difficulty in improving and regulating emissions from its huge industrial sectors, it is also considered part of its own industrial emissions problems because it emphasizes the role of fossil, and particularly of coal for power production. This type of emission-intensive generation is expected to grow disproportionately in their power capacity addition plans until 2025 while only part of the space is available for renewable energies that use the country’s hydro and geothermal resources, there are currently enormous opportunities for solar and wind power left far behind (7, 8).
A green recovery for Indonesia could change the situation. It will take industrial transformation expertise and collective will to develop a healthy “win-win” strategy to cut emissions, create green jobs, and further promote the young nation’s economic growth based on a stepwise transition to a low carbon economy.
The benefits of such an industrial transformation are obvious, since a sustainable industrial strategy that focuses on clean technologies, circular economy and renewable energies will promote Indonesia’s long-term competitiveness.
It will make Indonesia a solid partner in fulfilling international obligations such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, bring in new green investments and reduce the burden on its own Health care system by reducing diseases caused by air pollution..
it will give the weakest among us a better chance of a good and healthy life.
*Dr. Wolfram Kalt, Expert for Industrial Transformation