(CMC)— The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, says a “resilient, inclusive and low-carbon economy” must be the “guiding axis” for the post-coronavirus (COVID-19) economic recovery.
“We are at a civilising crossroads and the ethical imperative is to rebuild, change the development model for one with greater equality, with a more solidarity-based economy,” Bárcena told a high-level United Nations’ virtual meeting on the role of climate action in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
“We need to take on precisely those big structural gaps that we continue to face and that we have accumulated over many years, and prevent another lost decade,” Bárcena said.
She said the importance of understanding that the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic “made us abandon the world of speculation and suddenly rooted us in what is real, and what is tangible.
“The lesson is that the world to come must be rebuilt on the basis of what is tangible, and one of the most tangible parts are the ecosystems, cities, people,” she said.
Bárcena warned that if the post COVID-19 economic recovery has the same environmental consequences as those seen before the pandemic, “we will witness a deepening of the climate and water crises.
“This would mean leaving one crisis to go into another of an even more global nature, with a much longer duration, and with more enduring and damaging effects,” she said.
She added that compacts are needed in strategic, priority sectors to move towards a transition of an agro-ecological, energy, cultural, civic and governance-related nature.
“At ECLAC, we have prioritised the Escazú Agreement as that great civic instrument for access to information, justice and participation in environmental matters,” Bárcena said, pointing to estimates indicating that the pandemic’s effects will produce the biggest recession experienced by the region since 1914 and 1930, with growth projected at -5.3 per cent.
“A significant deterioration in labour indicators in 2020 that will leave nearly 12 million more people unemployed in the region, and an increase of nearly 30 million people living in poverty, to reach a total of 214.7 million people (or 34.7 per cent of the region’s population),” will also be an effect of the pandemic, she said.
Bárcena warned that the rise in extreme poverty is “especially worrisome,” with a 2.6 percentage point increase foreseen (15.9 million more people) to affect 83.4 million people in all.
She said that is why ECLAC proposes providing a basic emergency income (BEI) equivalent to one poverty line over the course of six months to the entire population living in poverty in 2020, meaning 215 million people, or 34.7 per cent of the region’s population.
Bárcena said this would entail additional spending of 2.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) “to reach all the people who will find themselves in situations of poverty this year.”