in Front of an enemy without a face, and constantly evolving, and how public policies should they react ? The rate at which the pandemic of the Covid-19 develops leaves the policy makers in the grip of the doubt on this issue. There are more than a simple link of death between the viruses and pollution, while also ubiquitous, which is rampant in our towns and villages, and laid waste to our natural habitats, on land and at sea. In addition to the countless deaths caused by the two, clear lessons can be learned from the crisis and serve as a guide, today and for the future.
The global pandemics, climate change, and pollution can move according to patterns established, but they cannot be contained by national borders. In this context, an international response policy must be proposed and include all the players in the game. The entire nation is being left behind becomes a potential weak link for the common good. This is why we welcome the "Green Deal" of the european Union, for its scope and ambition. The euro-mediterranean area in a broad sense, with its own challenges in terms of health and environment, must follow a pattern just as full, without ever forgetting the asymmetry that exists in the allocation of its resources and capabilities, and will require different types of commitment on the part of all actors involved.
The science at the heart of public policy
the image of the health professionals who lead the fight against the Covid-19, and experts in epidemiology that influence decision-making, this pandemic must be a new standard. The scientists and the research they conduct must be at the heart of the development of public policy.
they already have demonstrated the lethal link between pollution and Covid-19 and must be taken into account when we plan our response. The long-term exposure to harmful particles caused by pollution, namely PM10 and PM2,5, leads to harmful consequences on the citizens suffering from respiratory diseases common. It has been proven that the Covid-19 specifically triggers respiratory diseases, which place these patients in one of the groups most at risk. First evidence based on 3 000 cases recorded in the whole of Italy helped to establish a significant correlation between long-term exposure to particulate matter and the spread of contagions and deaths Covid-19. Similar evidence have been put forward by a study from Harvard.
A regional approach is essential
The Mediterranean is not an exception and the need for a regional approach is essential if we wish to combine two of the lessons emerging from the current crisis : the importance of being kingdom and the use of solutions based on scientific evidence. Fortunately, progress is already underway in this area. In effect, the Union for the Mediterranean (Ufm) offers the space and the forum needed to agree priorities regional environmental the most pressing, and then to act accordingly, with long-term strategies.
It is estimated that air pollution is responsible for approximately 7.2 million deaths per year, of which 1.6 million were due to pneumonia. But these figures also reflect a link cruel between environmental degradation and social inequality : approximately 90 % of the deaths related to pollution occur in regions with low and average income. Just like the Covid-19 we recalled that our region will not be as strong as our most vulnerable citizens, our resolve to fight against the pollution should follow the same trend.
Becchetti, Leonardo and Conzo, Gianluigi and Conzo, Pierluigi and Salustri, Francesco, Understanding the Heterogeneity of Adverse COVID-19 Outcomes : the Role of Poor Quality of Air and Lockdown Decisions (April 10, 2020).
Pope, C. A., Dockery, D. W., & Schwartz, J. (1995). Review of epidemiological evidence of health effects of particulate air pollution. Inhalation toxicology, 7(1), 1-18.
Xiao, W. M. et al., (2020). Exposure to air pollution, and COVID-19 mortality in the United States, memo.
* Grammenos Mastrojeni is the deputy secretary general of the Union for the Mediterranean. Leonardo Becchetti is professor of economics.