How to articulate integrated responses to the health, economic and climate crises in Latin America and the Caribbean?

 

Once the Latin American and Caribbean states have addressed the health emergency, the region will face a period of economic contraction. The need to respond quickly to avoid a severe economic crisis can be a strong argument for ignoring climate considerations. However, if these are not integrated, the recovery will push the region down a path with effects even more dramatic than those of COVID-19.

Economic recovery plans after COVID-19 will require large amounts of resources, adding to the region’s already high debt. With the current and projected effects of climate change – droughts, floods, hurricanes, losses in agricultural production, energy losses and exposure to an increase in pandemics, among others – the capacity of most countries to respond to the crisis climate will be seriously diminished.

In this context, it has never been more important than now to make COVID-19 response strategies different from the economic recovery plans that have been seen so far. Incorporating sustainable and “climate-proof” solutions has never been more important to improve the resilience of societies, and to be prepared in the best possible way for the future. Countries should integrate resilience to climate change into their post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

Urban expansion over ecosystems has increased the ability to spread viruses given the lack of biological control over pathogenic species in addition to population agglomerations and limitations in access to water as a key element to ensure the hygiene of the population. The integration of Nature-based Solutions (NBS) in urban and land use planning plans will have positive effects on the prevention and management of crises such as the current one in the future, as well as strengthening the resilience of cities in the face of climate change. The integration of this type of solutions reduces the probability of contagion of diseases, improves hygiene and health of citizens, improves air quality and contributes to the creation of jobs.

Through this document, the United Nations Environment Program proposes responses to integrate nature-based solutions in cities to address the recovery in the post-Covid-19 scenario, generating substantial economic growth and decent jobs. Priority actions are proposed such as:

  • Improve connectivity between cities and habitats, such as nature trails; urban landscaping for social distancing;
  • Reforestation in cities to improve air quality and reduce the heat island effect
  • Creation of artificial wetlands for water and wastewater treatment.
  • Permeable pavements to increase infiltration and reduce flooding and improve aquifer recharge.
  • Improvement in rainwater harvesting systems to ensure access to water
  • Restore natural waterways in cities to increase biodiversity and the ability to control invasive species
  • Expand organic waste collection and treatment, including distribution of home composting kits and training.
  • Strengthen food trade networks with local farmers and train the latter in resilient agriculture practices
  • Restore ecosystems in the upper areas of the basins where cities are located to improve the regulation of water flow

Mayors of cities in Europe, the United States, and Africa are already collaborating to coordinate their efforts to support a sustainable, low-carbon recovery from the crisis as national governments begin to roll out huge economic stimulus packages.

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