Health

Governing the complex emergency

“When we woke up from the covid, climate change was still there.” Emulating Augusto Monterroso, this would be the shortest account of what is happening to us. Now that we are beginning to emerge from the daze of the pandemic, still sore from its aftermath, we realize that the other great threat, the climate emergency, the mother of all crises, is not only still there but its effects are accelerating. On 31 the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP begins in Glasgow 26 and it will be the first opportunity to take stock after the pandemic has stopped. We have a lot to do. Both covid and climate change are part of a new type of emergency for which we are very little prepared: the complex global emergency.

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In an interesting work ( Towards a concept and framework for governing complex emergencies) published last November, the United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) alliance and the Cities program of the London School of Economics address the challenge posed by these types of emergencies. It defines them as a situation of immediate and significant risk to health, life, material goods or the environment, with a strong political component and requiring very different governance approaches from those used in natural disasters or catastrophes, although They share with these types of emergencies the need for rapid and radical intervention.

Both the global pandemic and the climate emergency fall squarely into this category. There are differences between them, of course. Of speed, for example: the rate of spread of the coronavirus is much faster than the rate of increase in global temperature. Or scale: the threat posed by the climate emergency is significantly more serious than that of the covid – 19. But both imply a profound alteration of political, economic and social stability that can generate tensions of democratic legitimacy.

Complex emergencies are characterized by a very high degree of uncertainty, with feedback loops that are difficult to anticipate and to prevent, such as variants of the virus or extreme manifestations of the climate. They are threats that require rapid transitions and pose serious priority dilemmas between life and livelihoods with an added difficulty: possible actions are delayed, do not produce immediate benefits, and are therefore more difficult to explain and justify. . The necessary measures also affect huge vested interests that can organize an active opposition, without society having prior experience that provides security in decision-making.

This type of crisis poses an additional challenge the need to incorporate a dimension of social justice and equity in order to have a chance of success. This is something that is seen very clearly both in the pandemic and in the climate crisis: the idea that either we are saved together or we are not going to save ourselves. Addressing them requires radical interventions by governments and high levels of public trust and support. When global challenges turn into emergencies, the response of governments depends on the acceptance and mobilization of citizens, but their adherence requires prior psychological and sociological conditions that allow scientific criteria to be put before direct experience. Citizens must be able to trust the predictions that justify the adoption of measures.

This type of emergency requires a response at the local level at the same time, because the crisis has different effects in different places, since global level, since only coordinated action on a planetary scale can achieve results. A global governance capable of bringing vaccines to the whole world and curbing greenhouse emissions. There are many variables to take into account, but from the final conclusions of the work I am left with two ideas: in the complex global emergency, the speed of the response is crucial and failure is not an option.

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