Towards a green and blue recovery

A guest column by Gabriel Quijandría Acosta, Environment Minister of Peru.

Gabriel Quijandría Acosta

Ten months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that at the base of it there is a dysfunctional relationship with nature. One expressed in several problems such as ecosystem loss and degradation, illegal wildlife trafficking, increased invasive species, or overexploitation and pollution.

This was stated in several (scientific) studies and reports, such as the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in May 2019. It revealed that the extinction of species has reached a dramatic level and needs to be stopped urgently. This alarming news was recently confirmed by WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020. It illustrates once again that humankind is using more resources than planet Earth can provide.  

‘The potential benefits are worth the effort, since our survival as a species is on the line.’

Precisely due to these environmental determinants, the enormous financial efforts that countries are making to revive their productive activity, recover lost jobs and ensure people’s economic wellbeing must necessarily and explicitly include an approach to environmental sustainability. Because even greater challenges than the pandemic, such as climate change, lie ahead and must be addressed with the utmost attention.

Options for mainstreaming the environmental perspective in economic recovery are not new. Fundamental transitions, such as the inclusion of renewable sources in the energy matrix, the development of electromobility, the promotion of deforestation-free agricultural and forestry production chains, the reduction of water and carbon footprints, the increase of investments in natural infrastructure, or the revolution of materials and recycling are examples of processes that were already well underway. That holds true both for industrialised countries and developing countries. But now all that has to move faster and go deeper.

The economic rationale behind not only a green but also a blue or marine-based recovery is being rapidly built by institutions of the most widely differing nature and mandates such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank and Greenpeace. This analytical work shows, for instance, that investments in nature conservation can produce a return of five dollars per dollar invested or that a path to decarbonisation in Latin America and the Caribbean can generate 15 million new jobs.

These findings provide hard evidence to sustain what a big part of societies around the world intuitively have been asking their decision-makers for, for at least the last twenty years: ambition and boldness to transform the economic system and tackle structural problems such as fairness, equity and sustainability.

The size and complexity of the task of ensuring the cross-cutting incorporation of the environment into the planning and decision-making processes of the public and private sectors are monumental. Therefore, it will require innovative partnerships to be built between government, companies and civil society organisations in each country. In the same vein, international cooperation must provide fresh impetus to strengthen implementation capacity, especially in the least developed countries.

A real recovery, one capable of establishing the basis for a new boost in growth and wellbeing, must be multicoloured. Or it will not be a recovery at all. The potential benefits are worth the effort, since our survival as a species is on the line.

published in akzente 3/2020