Controversial WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Gheybresus, has said that any recovery process to deal with the fallout from covid-19 must include measures for dealing with climate change.

During a press conference last week, Gheybresus told reporters that though countries were recovering from the impact of coronavirus, life would never be returning to pre-pandemic conditions.

“The pandemic is a reminder that health and the economy are inseparable”, he said.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to move into a new stage of opening their economies, societies, schools and businesses safely…At the same time, we will not – we cannot – go back to the way things were.”

He went on:

“Throughout history, outbreaks and pandemics have changed economies and societies. This one will be no different. In particular, the pandemic has given new impetus to the need to accelerate efforts to respond to climate change. The pandemic has given us a glimpse of our world as it could be: cleaner skies and rivers. Building back better means building back greener.”

The Director General went on to describe a “Green Recovery” as laid out by the WHO, with 81 policy prescriptions for lawmakers. These include striving for a “zero-carbon economy”, and giving “specific consideration” regarding health “to people in vulnerable situations such as migrants, refugees, internally displaced people, people in informal settlements etc.”

In addition, he claimed that while a covid-19 vaccine was “vital” and under development, it would not be enough to end the pandemic.

“No country can just ride this out until we have a vaccine. A vaccine will be a vital tool, and we hope that we will have one as soon as possible. But there’s no guarantee that we will, and even if we do have a vaccine, it won’t end the pandemic on its own.”

“We must all learn to control and manage this virus using the tools we have now, and to make the adjustments to our daily lives that are needed to keep ourselves and each other safe.”

“Hardship is always an opportunity to learn, to grow and to change. Covid-19 is a once-in-a-century health crisis. But it also gives us a once-in-a-century opportunity to shape the world our children will inherit – the word we want.”