Environmental Impacts and Policy Responses to Covid-19: A View from Latin America

Alejandro López-Feldman y Hernán Bejarano, Profesores Investigadores Titulares de la División de Economía del CIDE, así como  Carlos Chávez, María Alejandra Vélez, Ariaster B. Chimeli, José Féres, Juan Robalino, Rodrigo Salcedo y César Viteri escribieron este artículo publicado originalmente en la revista Environmental and Resource Economics

Abstract

COVID-19 is currently having major short run effects with possible serious long run implications for the environment and the management of natural resources in Latin America. We discuss the possible effects of the pandemic on air pollution, deforestation and other relevant environmental dimensions across the region. With contributions from environmental economists from eight countries, we give an overview of the initial and expected environmental effects of this health crisis. We discuss potential effects on environmental regulations, possible policy interventions, and an agenda for future research for those interested in the design and evaluation of environmental policies relevant for the Latin American context.

Introduction

On February 25, 2020, the Brazilian Ministry of Health confirmed that a 61 year-old man was positive for SARS-CoV-2: COVID-19 had arrived to Latin America. As of July 3rd, 2020, there have been 2.7 million confirmed cases in Latin America, compared to 1.3 million in the European Union and 2.8 million in the USA (JH-CSSE 2020). Furthermore, so far there have been more than 120,000 deaths in the region and the trends show that the first wave of the pandemic is far from over (ibid.).

There is of course no suitable time for a pandemic to arrive, but these are especially complicated times for Latin America. The region is in the midst of a difficult economic situation accompanied by rising social discontent (ECLAC 2020; OECD 2020). Moreover, it is characterized by high rates of informality, health systems with limited and unequal capacity, and most of the countries have high levels of debt (OECD 2020). Under these circumstances COVID-19 is having major short run socio-economic effects with possible serious long run consequences, including several potential implications for the environment and the management of natural resources.

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