At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts and gurus launched visions of how the crisis would transform the global economy. Many hailed the opportunity to transform our financial systems, supply chains, and ways of working. The overall message was that the post-pandemic future would be greener, healthier and fairer
Today, almost two years after the onset of the pandemic, enthusiasm about creating an economic “new normal” has all but faded. Aside from the occasional lockdown and wearing of masks, the world has largely returned to the old way of doing business. Time and again the fight against the pandemic has been described as a “war”, but there have been no radical changes similar to a war mobilization. On the contrary, the global response to the pandemic has operated with pre-pandemic norms. Despite urgent calls for a “popular vaccine” and for fairness in vaccines, market rules dominated the distribution of vaccines and the pharmaceutical industry has continued to operate without reform.
Similarly, authorities continue to act as if, to paraphrase Greta Thunberg, the planet is not on fire. UN Secretary General António Guterres called the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a “code red for humanity.” And yet, the current Nationally Determined Contributions, established in the framework of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, are not enough to achieve the objective of that same agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C below the levels. pre-industrial.
The United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) is the most immediate policy decision-making body available. But the international climate regime must go beyond voluntary emission reduction commitments and must enforce the promise of rich countries to provide financial assistance to the planet’s poorest and most vulnerable.
I am not an economist, but a physician specializing in the new field of planetary health, which focuses on the links between human well-being and planetary well-being. Its central premise is clear: to protect and improve our health it is necessary to address the underlying causes of human disease and damage to ecosystems simultaneously.
The economy that we currently have is destroying our well-being. It unleashed human creativity, created financial wealth, and lifted billions of people out of poverty, yet it also damaged ecosystems and exacerbated social inequality. In the first year of the COVID-19 crisis, more than 114 million jobs were lost, while the wealthiest in the world became $ 5 billion richer than they were at the start of the pandemic. And, by accelerating climate change and biodiversity loss, our current economy threatens the ability of future generations to survive and prosper. As a planetary health practitioner, I believe that the treatment for this disease is inexpensive, not medical.
In the pandemic, we have witnessed a radical increase in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), that is, masks and face shields, gloves and gowns similar to astronaut suits. However, to truly recover, we also need a different kind of PPE, an economy centered on people and on the planet. Since climate change and other forms of ecological damage increase the likelihood of future pandemics, this EPP would not only free us from the current crisis. The goal set by the World Health Organization’s Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response – to make COVID-19 the last of its kind – depends on it.
An economy centered on people and on the planet promotes the well-being of the entire planet Earth. It is an economy that deeply respects the limits of our world, as is the temperature established in the Paris agreement. And it ensures the satisfaction of the basic daily needs of all people; for example, through universal health systems and redistributive social policies. The success rate for this EPP is not gross domestic product or per capita income, but rather the ability for children to grow up to reach their full potential or the recovery from endangered species.
An example of this PPE has already been proposed by Kate Raworth. Unlike the current economic model, with its limitless supply and demand curves, the Raworth Donut Economy contemplates a narrow margin of “safe and fair space for humanity” that does not exceed the limits of the planet or fail to satisfy the needs of the world. basic needs of society.
Early in the pandemic, the city of Amsterdam pledged to adopt the donut as a model for its post-pandemic economy. Since then, the city has implemented projects and policies ranging from the circular use of building materials to reforms in the local fashion industry. The next challenge will be to apply this model to low- and middle-income countries to ensure the needs of their societies without crossing planetary boundaries.
We have entered the “decisive decade”. There are barely nine years left before we reach the deadlines set by the Paris agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We must take advantage of this critical period to design a truly people- and planet-centered economy. The growing global health community has an important role to play in creating an alternative to help us overcome the pandemic and ultimately meet the goals we have set for ourselves as a civilization.
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