A Sting Exclusive: “Asia-Pacific response to COVID-19 and climate emergency must build a resilient and sustainable future”, by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General

COVID19 ESCAP

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The opinions expressed in this article belong to our distinguished writers.


The unprecedented public health emergency triggered by the COVID -19 pandemic and its multi-faceted impact on people’s lives around the world is taking a heavy toll on Asia and the Pacific.

Countries in our region are striving to mitigate the massive socioeconomic impact of the pandemic, which is also expected to affect the region’s economic health. In its annual Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2020 launched today, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) expects growth in Asia-Pacific developing economies to slow down significantly this year.

Bold investments to sustain the region’s physical and economic well-being is imperative. The Survey advises policymakers to protect the economic health of the region with measures that support affected businesses and households and prevent economic contagion. To tackle COVID-19 in developing Asia-Pacific countries, the Survey also calls for an estimated increase in health emergency spending by $880 million per year through to 2030. Fiscal support will be crucial in enhancing health responders’ ability to monitor the spread of the pandemic and caring for infected people. ESCAP is also calling on Asia-Pacific countries to consider setting up a regional health emergency preparedness fund.

The pandemic is also an opportunity for us to rethink our economic growth path that has come at a heavy cost to people and planet. According to the latest ESCAP assessment on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Asia and the Pacific is not on track to achieve any of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030, with regression on several environmental Goals.

This stands in stark contrast with the region’s impressive gains in material prosperity, which have been powered by intensive resource use. We are currently paying the price amid a public health emergency in a region with 97 of the 100 most air-polluted cities in the world and 5 of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change. Economic policymaking is understandably focused on maximizing growth to reduce poverty and create jobs. Yet, we need to question this when the methods of growth undermine its sustainability over the long term.

The 2020 Survey is proposing a transition towards a growth path that ensures we bequeath a healthy planet to future generations. It is calling for a shift in the paradigm of production and consumption, which is at the core of all economic activities.

To bring about this fundamental shift in the way we produce and consume, we need to adopt the motto of ‘no more business as usual’ for all stakeholders in planetary well-being, namely governments, businesses and consumers. Policymakers should not lose sight of a looming climate crisis, but rather design economic stimulus packages with social inclusion and environmental sustainability built into every decision.

The Survey identifies challenges and constraints to making this switch for each group of stakeholders. The good news is that it is possible to take on these challenges and align the goals of all stakeholders with the 2030 Agenda’s goal of sustainability.

In particular, the Survey urges governments in the region to embed sustainability in policymaking and implementation, transition out of fossil fuel dependency and support the greening of finance. The region continues to provide $240 billion worth of annual subsidies to fossil fuels while investments in renewables remain at $150 billion.

Businesses can integrate sustainability by factoring in environmental, social and governance aspects in investment analysis and decisions. Carbon pricing will be a key tool to reduce emissions and mitigate climate-related risks. The region is already a leader in adopting the emerging sustainable business paradigms of the shared economy and circular economy.

All of us as consumers must understand the importance of switching to sustainable lifestyles. This will begin with increasing awareness of the impact of consumer choices on people and planet. Governments will have to play a significant role in encouraging consumer choices through positive reinforcements, small suggestions and eco-labelling of products.

Integrating sustainability also requires international collaboration, given the interconnected world in which we live. Asia-Pacific governments need to coordinate their climate action, particularly the development of climate-related standards and policies. Having achieved so much, yet also at the risk of losing so much, the Asia-Pacific region stands at a pivotal moment in its development journey. The next phase of its economic transformation should be more sustainable, with cleaner production and less material-intensive lifestyles.

With headwinds to the region’s development journey strengthened by the COVID-19 pandemic, let us heed the United Nations Secretary General’s call to mobilize for a decade of action to build a sustainable and resilient future.

About the author

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Without tackling ‘gross inequalities’ major issues will go unsolved, warns UN rights chief Bachelet

Inflation not a problem for Europe

Service and Sacrifice: For Ghana, UN peacekeeping is a ‘noble opportunity to serve humanity’

Sweden’s forests have doubled in size over the last 100 years

MEPs condemn attacks on civilians, including children, in Yemen

Yemen: ‘Living hell’ for all children, says UNICEF; Angelia Jolie calls for ‘lasting ceasefire’

What’s the latest on coronavirus antibody tests?

EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: €5.6 billion out of €6 billion now allocated in support of refugees

Mood changes in Europe in favour of growth and jobs

Putin becomes the ‘perfect enemy” for the West

These are the countries best prepared for health emergencies

Pervasive corruption costs $2.6 trillion; disproportionately affects ‘poor and vulnerable’ says UN chief

COP21 Business update: Companies urge now for carbon pricing as coal is still a big issue

Coronavirus: Commission issues guidance to ensure essential freight keeps moving by air

Hostages to a rampant banking system

This new form of currency could transform the way we see money

With Libyans now ‘fighting the wars of others’ inside their own country, UN envoy urges Security Council action to end violence

THE ROAD TO GANESHA

Closing VAT loopholes for sales through online platforms

Brexit update: can the UK General Election of 12 December 2019 lead to a Brexit extension to 2030?

Primary Healthcare vs Specialization Careers, how to promote PHC to the Young Health Workforce?

Venezuela: UN human rights office calls for ‘maximum restraint’ by authorities in face of new demonstrations

Millennials aren’t voting – but these young leaders have a plan to change that

Antitrust: Commission seeks feedback on commitments offered by Broadcom concerning TV set-top box and modem chipset markets

SMEs are the most valuable partners. Here’s why

The 100-year climate catastrophe of Mont Blanc

MWC 2016 LIVE: Freemium MVNO model a success, claims FreedomPop head

Universal Health Care: can it exist only in utopic society?

Large parts of the world are growing more fragile. Here are 5 steps to reverse course

European markets itchy with short-term disturbances

Ebola situation worsening in DR Congo, amidst growing ‘funding gap’ UN health agency warns

Coronavirus: First case confirmed in Gulf region, more than 6,000 worldwide

Italy’s rescue operation Mare Nostrum shuts down with no real replacement. EU’s Triton instead might put lives at risk

In Yemen, Special Envoy sees UN role in preserving ‘essential’ aid pipeline at country’s major port

Aviation Strategy for Europe: Commission signs landmark aviation agreements with China

How COVID-19 is throttling vital migration flows

How private equity can fund the fight against climate change

Artificial Intelligence raises ethical, policy challenges – UN expert

Terror attacks strike people ‘from all walks of life, the UN included’

What can stop the ‘too big to fail’ bankers from terrorising the world?

Spirit unlimited

Which role does art play in the COVID-19 pandemic?

The world’s most expensive places to own a home

Governments can fight corruption by joining the digital payment revolution

We can save the Earth. Here’s how

Two-thirds of global drug deaths now from opioids: UN drugs report

ITU Telecom World 2016: it’s all about working together

Russia and the West to partition Ukraine?

UN updates guidelines to ensure successful return to civilian life for former combatants

UN condemns Syrian ‘war on children’ as up to 30 reportedly killed in clashes

Youth Entrepreneurship Issue of the month: JEN, organisers of JADE October Meeting, on why JEs should come together

Is the West gradually losing Africa?

The 3 traps when it comes to blockchain and business – and how to avoid them

A busy year in the UN Security Council: more openness, diversity mark 2019

The mental health of our society

UN allocates $20 million in emergency funding, as Cyclone Idai disaster unfolds

Mali: ‘Dire’ humanitarian situation, ‘grave’ security concerns challenge fragile peace

UN expert ‘shocked’ by Egyptian reprisals against human rights defenders she met

Estonia: use robust growth to improve income equality and well-being

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s