Economic reconstruction in the Caribbean post-COVID-19 cannot be done without the consideration and inclusion of climate change.
This is the contention of Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank Vice President (VP) for Latin America and the Caribbean.
In a World Bank online publication, Jaramillo said: “Both the pandemic and climate crises are magnifying underlying inequities and poor economic performance. As we look to recovery from COVID-19, we must rebuild better to take the coming climate crisis into account.”
According to Jaramillo, the climate crisis in the region is not going away. He said, climate, like the COVID-19 crisis, takes the greatest toll on the most vulnerable people in the region.
According to the World Bank VP most economies in the region are facing two major challenges: recovering from a severe economic recession while addressing the necessary transformations required for inclusive growth and sustainable development that facilitate a pathway out of poverty for all.
He argued that COVID-19 recovery programs that prioritise productivity, inclusion and resilience would lead to more competitiveness and innovation, and would build confidence in government and institutions.
It would also position Latin America and the Caribbean, Jaramillo said, to combat COVID-19 and climate change and help rebuild the social contract so important to accelerate poverty alleviation and shared prosperity.
“Clean energy and clean transport are key sectors in the region’s agenda to rebuild better,” Jaramillo explained.
He added that though Latin America already produces most of its electricity from renewable sources, the most important, hydro generation, is increasingly vulnerable to climate change-induced variability and will be increasingly hard to scale to keep pace with increased demand expected once the COVID crisis subsides.
He also contended that non-traditional renewable energies, wind and solar in particular, are now cost-competitive in many countries if regulatory and contractual barriers to their integration into the energy matrix can be overcome.
Furthermore, Jaramillo said that energy efficiency investments in buildings could reduce carbon footprints while generating many low-skill jobs during building retrofits. On the transport side, a renewed focus on public transit should be a high priority noted Jaramillo.
He went on to advocate for designing cities to avoid sprawl and “encouraging urban development around transit hubs, like metro and bus stops, will help reduce demand for motorised transit and should go hand-in-hand with affordable bus rapid transit and subway systems that increasingly integrate electric vehicles.”
When done well, Jaramillo posited, adapting and building resilience to climate change can generate significant economic, social, and environmental benefits, unlocking growth and jobs while building up natural capital.