Sustainability must not be compromised
Written by Enrique Lendo, Business Development Mexico Advisor.
Back in January, 2020 promised to be the “Super Year” of sustainable development. A growing number of companies, with assets close to $40 trillion dollars, committed to transit towards low emission and sustainable production and financing systems. For the first time, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report ranked environmental and climate risk at the top of its tables, over economic and geopolitical risk. In the framework of the United Nations, fundamental decisions for the climate change, biodiversity and oceans agendas have been postponed due to the pandemic.
COVID 19 has exposed our vulnerability, as human species, before biological and natural phenomena as well as how fragile our economic and political systems are to global emergencies. The irrational management of biodiversity and ecosystems has triggered the evolution of viruses as climate change boosts its geographical reach and hastens its spread with massive consequences to human lives.
On the other hand, social distancing and isolation measures recommended to contain the pandemic fosters significant changes in the scale and the structure of the global economy. 2020 will face one of the largest recessions in modern history with contractions of 13% in trade and 1% of global GDP and impact to 1.6 billion jobs throughout the world. The GDP contraction in México will be the range of 6 to 10% by the end of 2020.
However, the current crisis also provides an unprecedented opportunity to restructure our economic system towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns in the framework of the environmental, financial and social agendas. At macro level, governments are able to decide whether incentives considered in their economic recovery policies will be directed to traditional, less competitive and more polluting industries or towards sectors that will create economic gains and social welfare in the long term.
For instance, investment in renewable energy would bring gains of $100 trillion dollars by 2050, or returns of $3 to $8 dollars per unit invested. Such investment could also create 42 million new jobs and reduce green house gas emissions in the energy sector by 70%. In contrast, fossil fuels are responsible for 70% of global CO2 emissions, receive subsidies up to $5 trillion dollars a year and, in the case of oil, have experienced negative returns in the last days. Today, Mexico’s Pemex costs 24 billion dollars in losses to taxpayers and the auctions to allocate clean energy certificates have been postponed.
At the micro level, manufacturers will have to adapt to the new trends in the value chains of a less interconnected world and find input providers closer to their production centers. In the service sector, digitalization and virtualization has expanded like never before, fostering innovation and the development of new products and processes. Only these companies and sectors able to adapt with creativity and speed will survive in the post-Covid world. However, sustainable consumption and production patterns will only be attained if policies and incentives are crafted properly. In the framework of economic recovery plans, environmental standards should not be downgraded, and support tools must not be directed towards polluting industries over more sustainable ones, otherwise inefficiencies will prevail and opportunities to boost green and sustainable growth will be lost.