Since the global crisis began there have been discussions of the closure of companies and loss of jobs. What has not gotten attention are the implications on the management of the environment.
All efforts at regeneration of the earth, in need of repair after decades of exploitation are now at risk. Firstly, a number of companies are closing down. Because of the circumstances and suddenness of the closures, many firms may not properly de-commission operations.
Indeed, it is possible dangerous materials will not be disposed off safely or waste management regulations followed.
Secondly, many companies responded to the crisis by downsizing workforces. Given that environment issues are not deemed as core to operations, staff working on them is among the first to go.
Thirdly, when companies have to prioritise investments, environment issues can easily end up neglected. This can mean failure or delays in investment in cleaner production technologies.
The continued operation of obsolete technologies or machinery, together with reduced environmental officers and funds, mean less compliance with environmental regulations.
It also means corporate social responsibility activities often of an environmental nature are curtailed.
Similar concerns are evident even from the perspective of the enforcement agencies and regulators.
Just like private companies, they have frozen recruitment of new staff despite challenges posed by new issues such as climate change.
Rwanda Environment Management Agency (REMA), the body that is charged with environment issues in Rwanda is forced to operate with reduced budgetary allocations from the Government due to the limited national budget and the financial crisis and this leads to challenges in the maintenance of equipment or investing in cutting edge technologies.
The crisis also encourages lowering standards to attract foreign direct investment. This leads to the exportation of pollution to Africa.
China has become Africa’s third largest trading partner. But by many accounts, China is not known for a high regard for environmentalism. The overall effect is that the world remains in crisis.