Asia-Pacific Response to COVID-19 and Climate Emergency Must Build a Resilient and Sustainable Future

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United
Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of
ESCAP

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
BANGKOK, Thailand, Apr 8 2020 (IPS)

The unprecedented public health emergency triggered by the COVID
-19 pandemic and its multi-faceted impact on people’s lives
around the world is taking a heavy toll on Asia and the
Pacific.

Countries in our region are striving to mitigate the massive
socioeconomic impact of the pandemic, which is also expected to
affect the region’s economic health. In its annual Economic and
Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2020 launched today, the
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
Pacific (ESCAP)expectsgrowth in Asia-Pacific developing economies
to slow down significantly this year.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

Bold investments to sustain the region’s physical and economic
well-being is imperative. The Survey advises policymakers to
protect the economic health of the region with measures thatsupport
affected businesses and households and prevent economic
contagion.To tackle COVID-19 in developing Asia-Pacific countries,
the Survey also calls for an estimated increase in health emergency
spending by $880 million per year through to 2030. Fiscal support
will be crucial in enhancing health responders’ abilityto monitor
the spread of the pandemic and caring for infected people. ESCAP is
also calling on Asia-Pacific countries to consider setting up a
regional health emergency preparedness fund.

The pandemic is also an opportunity for us to rethink our
economic growth path that has come at a heavy cost to people and
planet. According to the latest ESCAP assessment on implementing
the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Asia and the Pacific
is not on track to achieve any of the 17 Sustainable Development
Goals (SDG) by 2030, with regression on several environmental
Goals.

This stands in stark contrast with the region’s impressive
gains in material prosperity, which have been powered by intensive
resource use. We are currently paying the price amida public health
emergency in a region with 97 of the 100 most air-polluted cities
in the world and 5 of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate
change.Economic policymaking is understandably focused on
maximizing growth to reduce poverty and create jobs. Yet, we need
to question this when the methods of growth undermine its
sustainability over the long term.

The 2020 Survey is proposing a transition towards a growth path
that ensures we bequeatha healthy planet to future generations. It
is calling for a shift in the paradigm of production and
consumption, which is at the core of all economic activities.

To bring about this fundamental shift in the way we produce and
consume, we need to adopt the motto of ‘no more business as
usual’ for all stakeholders in planetary well-being, namely
governments, businesses and consumers. Policymakers should not lose
sight of a looming climate crisis, but rather design economic
stimulus packages with social inclusion and environmental
sustainability built into every decision.

The Survey identifies challenges and constraints to making this
switch for each group of stakeholders. The good news is that it is
possible to take on these challenges and align the goals of all
stakeholders with the 2030 Agenda’s goal of sustainability.

In particular, the Survey urges governments in the region to
embed sustainability in policymaking and implementation, transition
out of fossil fuel dependency and support the greening of finance.
The region continues to provide $240 billion worth of annual
subsidies to fossilfuels while investments in renewables remain at
$150 billion.

Businesses can integrate sustainability by factoring in
environmental, social and governance aspects in investment analysis
and decisions. Carbon pricing will be a key tool to reduce
emissions and mitigate climate-related risks. The region is already
a leader in adopting the emerging sustainable business paradigms of
the shared economy and circular economy.

All of us as consumers must understand the importance of
switching to sustainable lifestyles. This will begin with
increasing awareness of the impact of consumer choices on people
and planet. Governments will have to play a significant role in
encouraging consumer choices through positive reinforcements, small
suggestions and eco-labelling of products.

Integrating sustainability also requires international
collaboration, given the interconnected world in which we live.
Asia-Pacific governments need to coordinate their climate action,
particularly the development of climate-related standards and
policies.Having achieved so much,yet also at the risk of losing so
much, the Asia-Pacific region stands at a pivotal moment in its
development journey. The next phase of its economic transformation
should be more sustainable, with cleaner production and less
material-intensive lifestyles.

With headwinds to the region’s development journey
strengthened by the COVID-19 pandemic, let us heed the United
Nations Secretary General’s call to mobilize for a decade of
action to build a sustainable and resilient future.

The post
Asia-Pacific Response to COVID-19 and Climate Emergency Must Build
a Resilient and Sustainable Future
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United
Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of
ESCAP

The post
Asia-Pacific Response to COVID-19 and Climate Emergency Must Build
a Resilient and Sustainable Future
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Asia-Pacific Response to COVID-19 and Climate Emergency Must Build a Resilient and Sustainable Future