New Delhi: The impact of COVID-19 on the world economy may cause hindrance in achieving climate goals set under the Paris Agreement, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Wednesday.
In a web chat with environmentalists and the media on the occasion of Earth Day, the minister also said people must not get "too romantic" about the blue skies, fresh air and the green earth that they have seen over the last one month due to the coronavirus lockdown.
He said there is a direct link between COVID-19 and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of wellbeing and health, which is a part of the SDGs set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and intended to be achieved by 2030.
The economic consequences of the pandemic may lead to weakening our commitment to climate action, he said.
"There is direct link between sustainable development and climate action. Example: Farmers' well-being is directly linked to the extreme weather events linked to climate change, he said.
"COVID-19 has direct link with SDG-3 (Wellbeing And Health). The society that has been affected by COVID19, prima facie would not be in a position to meet the climate targets (NDCs) due to the negative impact on economy and the social structure," Javadekar said.
He, however, said that India sees the crisis as an opportunity.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated that inconvenient truth of climate change can be dealt with convenient action," he said.
He said the lockdown due to COVID-19 has in it some climate-related opportunities.
"I am not talking about reduction in carbon footprint due to lockdown, but the potential of Indian youth and soft power to use the modern technology to innovate to counter the climate change. International Solar Alliance (ISA)'s potential may now be looked at more closely if it helps farmers and poor people.
"Let us look at the positive side of the pandemic. COVID-19 in India has shown that the government under able leadership of PM Modi can act early, swiftly and decisively in a crisis, and that people are ready to change their behaviour for the good of the society. People are also willing to sacrifice their cherished civil rights for the better good of the society," the minister said.
He also urged the world to act in a similar way to meet the challenges of climate change.
"The economic consequences of the pandemic may lead to weakening our commitment to climate action. However, the habits like (work from home) set during the COVID-19 may lead us to less environmental footprint mainly due to reduced transportation and fossil fuel use.
"The decline in pollution from pandemic shutdowns is the occasion for us to realise the damage we do to the environment and health of the people," the minister said.
Talking about the blue skies and green earth as a consequence of the lockdown, the minister one must not get "too romantic" about it as for nature to be in its ultimate form, people will need to get rid of vehicles and industries.
"Last one month people have seen clean river, good flora and fauna, green earth, blue sky, stars in the sky and from Jalandhar also you can see the Himalayas. This is nature in its ultimate form. That is how we used to live in villages. When we created cities because of our needs and with increasing population, things changed world over.
"Let us understand that we should not be too romantic on this because if we want nature like this, then we have to stop few things like vehicles, industries and go back to old days of villages and can sustain only 30 crore people not 130 crore people.
So we must think of it in a holistic manner. The issue is the choices earlier generations have made. Our challenge is to make it sustainable even in these circumstances. Sustainable lifestyle is India's ethos. Need-based consumption is required not greed-based consumption," Javadekar said.
Earlier, several environmental experts, too, had said that the clean air and the blue skies are only temporary and will go back to pre-coronavirus days within a few days once the lockdown is over.