The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, called today for taking decisive climate action including to decarbonize economies, restore ecosystems and place value on their contribution to the economy and society, during a seminar organized by the Regional Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the National College of Mexico.
During her presentation on the economic perspective regarding sustainability, the senior United Nations official stressed the urgency of changing the development paradigm and model that have led us to overshoot the planet’s limits, with high economic and social costs.
“A window of opportunity opens today to rethink the development of the infrastructure of life: environment and nature, health, pensions, housing, employment, social protection, and moving towards a care society,” Alicia Bárcena affirmed.
ECLAC’s highest authority was one of the main speakers on the second day of the event held to present the report Making Peace with Nature: A scientific blueprint to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies, produced by UNEP, which was moderated by Julia Carabias, an academic from the Faculty of Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
Participating in the event with Alicia Bárcena were José Sarukhán, National Coordinator of the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO); Cristián Samper, President and Chief Executive of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Hesiquio Benítez, Director of International Cooperation and Implementation of CONABIO; María Jesús Iraola, Lead Author and Coordinator of the sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) for Youth report; and Piedad Martin, UNEP’s Deputy Regional Director in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In her presentation, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary stressed that the region has extraordinary, but highly threatened, biodiversity, with the greatest loss of primary forest, 31 areas with eutrophication of the seas and 19 dead zones, 25% of socio-environmental conflicts globally, and incomplete and fragmented environmental institutions with small budgets and weak regulations.
She added that during the pandemic, the region has experienced greater use of natural resources for subsistence, self-employment, energy and food, among other purposes. It has also recorded an increase in illegality, above all in mining; a weakening of environmental rules and of environmental impact assessments on major development projects; reprimarization; and a reduction in environmental budgets.
Alicia Bárcena specified that COVID-19 broke out in the region in the context of three structural crises: a social crisis that is reflected in the high levels of inequality, with severe social, political and economic consequences; an economic crisis that translates into low growth in production and trade, and the decoupling of the financial system; and an environmental crisis that is manifested in environmental degradation that is irreversible in many cases, with potentially disastrous consequences for the planet.
“These three crises and the policies needed to overcome them mutually interact. Changing the region’s development pattern requires acting on all three in a coordinated way. To achieve this, a minimum growth rate of 4% is needed. This must be accompanied by a very sharp redistribution – that the wealthiest 1% give to the poorest 1% – and that is only attainable through fiscal policies,” Alicia Bárcena explained.
She emphasized that ECLAC proposes a transformative recovery with equality and sustainability. To that end, the Commission has identified eight sectors that promote technical change, generate employment and reduce external constraints and the environmental footprint. These are the transition towards renewable energy, sustainable electromobility in cities, an inclusive digital revolution, the health-care manufacturing industry, the bioeconomy, the care economy, the circular economy, and sustainable tourism.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary called for bridging the short and long term through expansionary fiscal policy and low interest rates, an increase in tax collection using the criteria of progressivity, the expansion of sources of taxation, and the harnessing of sources of public finance to mobilize private financing, such as bonds and green finance.
On environmental matters, she called for internalizing the information available in countries’ national accounts, introducing environmental taxes or adjusting those already in existence, incorporating sustainability into the evaluation of investment, and measuring development, natural heritage and well-being and not just market transactions, among other measures.
Finally, Alicia Bárcena urged for strengthening regional integration.
“We are a megadiverse region and we have to talk about biodiversity with a single voice, and with a renewed multilateralism,” she concluded.