On Friday 29 May 2020, the OECD held one of a series of joint OECD-WWF Virtual Dialogues. In honor of this session, Gabriela prepared the following intervention. Find below her remarks and recording.
Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome you to the first of a series of three joint WWF-OECD high-level dialogues aimed at informing decision-making on how we recover from the COVID-19 crisis more sustainable and more resilient than before.
The current health emergency, and its economic and social ramifications, have revealed how vulnerable our societies and economies are to shocks. We could have anticipated. But we were not adequately prepared!
Indeed, this crisis is a wakeup call that we cannot keep treating economics, health, environment, education and social justice as separate questions with separate answers. And, as we focus on overcoming COVID-19, we must not forget about other planetary emergencies – such as climate change and biodiversity loss. If we do not act now, who will suffer most again? The most vulnerable group and community.
Well, we already know that low-income households are more vulnerable to air pollution and more broadly climate change impacts.
- For example, the health threat of Covid-19 is greater for cities and people exposed to higher levels of pollution, which are most often people living in poorer areas.
- Globally, 2.2 billion people lack access to safely-managed drinking water services. We know that access to clean water and sanitation services are key to reducing transmission of infectious diseases.
- Pollution affect the health and development of children – especially the low-income (and their educational outcomes) and of course cause more death for the old population disproportionately.
- Learning lesson from the past, the crisis could affect people’s job prospect especially for some disadvantaged social groups and minorities:
- Post-Hurricane Katrina disaster, black workers were 3.8 times more likely to have lost their jobs (increasing to 7 times for low-income black workers).
- Climate change affect workers who are the most reliant on ecosystem services such as farmers and fishers.
By reducing the environmental and social risk factors people are exposed to, nearly a quarter of the global health burden (measured as loss from sickness, death and financial costs) could be prevented, according to WHO. So, green recovery packages need to consider multiple well-being objectives, focusing on jobs and incomes as well as health and effective reductions in emissions.
As governments start to move from short-term emergency measures towards longer-term economic recovery, many will also be considering the upgrades to their climate commitments – NDCs – that are required ahead of COP26 next year.
This presents a perfect opportunity to ensure that increased climate ambition is at the core of people-centred economic recovery strategies. Economic recovery measures should be designed to both reduce the likelihood of future shocks and increase society’s resilience to those that will inevitably occur, while at the same time focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable. In other words, to “build back better” the economy in a way that protects the environment, public health, and safeguards people’s well-being
At the OECD we are moving towards this objective and our work on climate and well-being is a great start. By better capturing multiple benefits, a well-being approach to climate action can make a stronger case for implementing and funding solutions that align multiple goals and combine different scales of action. We now need the courage and political will to pursue a truly “sustainable” recovery that is low-carbon and climate-resilient, confident that it will be the most prosperous path for the long-term.