Economic conditions in China have changed dramatically over the past six months. The COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to contain it have triggered a combined demand and supply shock. While supply side constraints have eased, weak domestic and external demand continues to restrain the pace of recovery, despite the measures taken to contain the economic fallout. But with good policies, the recovery poses opportunities to further inclusive, sustainable and greener growth, according to Leaning Forward – COVID-19 and China’s Reform Agenda, the World Bank’s China Economic Update for July 2020.
The report projects that economic growth in China will slow sharply to 1.6 percent this year–marking the slowest expansion since 1976–before rebounding to 7.9 percent in 2021. Even as economic activity rebounds, the pace of China’s poverty reduction is expected to slow, reflecting slower growth in household incomes. Without additional policy measures, 8-20 million fewer people are projected to escape poverty in 2020, compared to pre-pandemic projections.
Risks to China’s economic outlook are unusually high. On the downside, recurrent COVID-19 flareups could continue to disrupt economic activity, despite efforts to suppress the spread of the virus. Externally, a deeper and more protracted global recession and escalating bilateral tensions between China and some of its main trading partners could also derail the recovery. On the upside, the downturn could be less severe if domestic and global confidence recover faster than anticipated, and if economic tensions de-escalate.
“While risks are exceptionally high, they can be partially mitigated by good policies,” said Martin Raiser World Bank Country Director for China. “The pandemic shock has exposed deeply connected economic, social, and environmental fragilities, further increasing the urgency of rebalancing the economy toward more inclusive, sustainable, and greener growth. The recovery offers an opportunity to accelerate progress towards these goals.”
Policymakers will need to ensure monetary and financial sector policies remain flexible to provide abundant liquidity and keep market rates and bond yields low, easing the debt burden on households, firms, and governments. Fiscal policies will need to play a critical role in supporting the recovery. Stimulus measures should be designed in a way that contributes to achieving more inclusive, carbon-neutral and greener growth.
“The pandemic has amplified the need to close gaps in China’s social safety nets both to support distressed workers and households, and to help minimize the lasting weakness of domestic consumption,” said Sebastian Eckardt, World Bank Lead Economist for China.
Enhancing market competition and reform of the hukou (household residency registration) system could help unleash a stronger market response, facilitate adjustment to post-COVID-19 economic realities, and support China’s longer-term growth prospects, according to the report.
MDBs’ Annual Climate Finance Passes $61 Billion
Climate financing by seven of the world’s largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) totaled $61.6 billion in 2019, with $41.5 billion (67%) in low- and middle-income economies, according to the 2019 Joint Report on Multilateral Development Banks’ Climate Finance.
In addition to its traditional focus on low- and middle-income countries, the 2019 report expands the scope of reporting for the first time to all countries of operations.
Some $46.6 billion, or 76% of total financing for the year, was devoted to climate change mitigation investments that aim to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and slow down global warming.
The remaining $15 billion, or 24%, was invested in adaptation efforts to help countries build resilience to the mounting impacts of climate change, including worsening droughts and more extreme weather events from extreme flooding to rising sea levels.
The report combines data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the African Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the World Bank Group and—for the first time—the Islamic Development Bank, which joined the working group in October 2017. In 2019, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank also joined MDB working groups, and its data is presented separately in the report.
Additional climate funds channeled through MDBs—such as from the Climate Investment Funds, the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund, the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund, the European Union’s Funds for Climate Action, and the Green Climate Fund—also play an important role in boosting MDB climate financing. In 2019, the MDBs reported a further $102.7 billion in net climate cofinancing from public and private sources. This raised the total climate activity financed by MDBs in 2019 to $164.3 billion.
“The growing flow of MDB climate finance shows our joint resolve to take on climate change and, in the face of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, it is more important than ever to ‘build back better’ in a low carbon and climate resilient way,” said the Director General of ADB’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Woochong Um. “The report shows that climate finance provided by and through the MDBs is providing increasing support for these needed transitions.”
In 2019, ADB committed almost $7.1 billion in climate finance (more than $5.5 billion for mitigation and $1.5 billion for adaptation). This included $705 million from external resources, including multilateral climate funds. Further, ADB mobilized $8.8 billion of climate cofinancing.
The report shows that the MDBs are on track to deliver on their increased climate finance commitments. In 2019, the MDBs committed their global annual climate financing to reach $65 billion by 2025—with $50 billion for low- and middle-income countries—and that MDB adaptation finance would double to $18 billion by 2025. The MDBs have reported on climate finance since 2011, based on a jointly developed methodology for climate finance tracking.
The 2019 Joint Report on Multilateral Development Banks’ Climate Finance is published in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused significant social and economic disruption, temporarily reducing global carbon emissions to 2006 levels.
Public Transport Can Bounce Back from COVID-19 with New and Green Technology
Public transport must adapt to a “new normal” in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and adopt technologies that will render it more green and resilient to future disasters, according to a new report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The report, Guidance Note on COVID-19 and Transport in Asia and the Pacific, details the profound impact of the pandemic on transport, as swift lockdowns forced millions this year to work from home overnight, schools to shift to e-learning, and consumers to flock to online shopping and food delivery.
While public transit may have been previously perceived as a mostly green, efficient, and affordable mode of travel, initial trends in cities that have re-opened have indicated that public transit is still considered to be relatively unsafe and is not bouncing back as quickly as the use of private vehicles, cycling, and walking.
“The two key challenges ahead are addressing capacity on public transport to maintain safe distancing requirements, and how best to regain public confidence to return to public transport,” said Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development. “In the short term, more effort is needed to reassure public transport users of safety and demonstrate clean and safe public transport. In the longer term, technological advances, big data, artificial intelligence, digitalization, automation, renewables and electric power can potentially offer fresh innovations to tackle changing needs, giving rise to smarter cities.”
While drastic lockdown measures around the world have brought world economies to their knees, satellites have recorded data on how the concentrations of CO2 and air pollutants have fallen drastically, bringing clear blue skies to many cities.
But as cities have reopened, traffic levels have increased. For example, Beijing traffic levels, by early April 2020, exceeded the same period in 2019. If this trend is seen on a wide scale, it could set back decades of effort in promoting sustainable development and more efficient means of urban mobility.
The report says there is a short window of opportunity for cities to promote the adoption of low-carbon alternatives to lock-in the improved air quality conditions gained during the peak of the pandemic lockdown. Public transport can play an important role through more active promotion of clean vehicles, provision of quality travel alternatives in public transport, and a better environment for non-motorized modes such as walking and cycling to enhance overall health and wellbeing.
The confidence of passengers on public transport should be restored through protective measures such as cleaning, thermal scanning, tracking and face covering, the report says. Further study to explore how protective and preventive measures can be stepped up to allow relaxation of safe distancing requirements would help mitigate capacity challenges. A possible future trend may be consolidation of services and rationalization of routes to better serve the emerging travel demand patterns and practices.
As countries enter the “recovery” phase, further preventive and precautionary operating measures and advanced technology should be implemented to enable contactless processes and facilitate an agile response. Demand management measures can facilitate crowd control in public transport systems and airports. As a complementary measure, non-motorized transport capacity could be expanded to absorb spillover demand from public transport.
Since mass public transport is the lifeblood of most economies, government policies and financial support are essential during this period, to enable public transport operators to stay viable and continue to support the movement of passengers and goods in a sustainable way.
For ADB, which committed last year $7 billion to the transport sector, behavioral trends linked to COVID-19 may require a review of the short-term viability of passenger transport and operational performance to meet changing demand for public transit systems. “Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic it is clear that developing Asia will continue to have a large need for additional transport infrastructure and services,” the report concludes. “It would take several years before the projects currently in the pipeline would be operational and much can happen during these years.”
Zero emission economy will lead to 15 million new jobs by 2030 in Latin America and Caribbean
In a new groundbreaking study , the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) show that the transition to a net-zero emission economy could create 15 million net new jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2030. To support a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic , the region urgently needs to create decent jobs and build a more sustainable and inclusive future.
The report finds that the transition to a net-zero carbon economy would end 7.5 million jobs in fossil fuel electricity, fossil fuel extraction, and animal-based food production. However, these lost jobs are more than compensated for new employment opportunities: 22.5 million jobs are created in agriculture and plant-based food production, renewable electricity, forestry, construction, and manufacturing.
The report is also the first of its kind to highlight how shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets, which reduce meat and dairy consumption while increasing plant-based foods, would create jobs and reduce pressure on the region’s unique biodiversity. With this shift, LAC’s agri-food sector could expand the creation of 19 million full-time equivalent jobs despite 4.3 million fewer jobs in livestock, poultry, dairy and fishing.
Moreover, the report offers a blueprint on how countries can create decent jobs and transition to net-zero emissions. This includes policies facilitating the reallocation of workers, advance decent work in rural areas, offer new business models, enhance social protection and support to displaced, enterprises, communities and workers.
Social dialogue between the private sector, trade unions, and governments is essential to design long-term strategies to achieve net-zero emissions, which creates jobs, helps to reduce inequality and delivers on the Sustainable Development Goals .
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