EfD researchers explore the effects of Covid-19 on relevant environmental dimensions across Latin America

A new multiauthor-perspective article discusses the potential effects of Covid-19 across Latin American countries. It also proposes an agenda for future research as a manner of contributing to a better understanding of the environmental impacts and the effectiveness of different policy responses to the pandemic.

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Figure 1. Chile EfD researcher Carlos Chávez (PhD)

Environmental economists from eight Latin American countries discussed the possible effects of Covid-19 on air pollution, deforestation and other relevant environmental dimensions across Latin America. This research was accepted for publication in Environmental and Resource Economics Special Issue “Economics of the Environment in the Shadow of Coronavirus”. EfD senior Chile researcher, Carlos Chávez, one of the co-authors of the study, indicates that many Latin American megacities have experienced a short run decrease in air pollution due to the restrictions of free movement. However, the pandemia has not had the same effect on air quality in all the major cities in the region. In Mexico City, the reductions in concentrations of some pollutants have been modest. Furthermore, as the virus and its negative consequences spread across rural areas and make its way through the southernmost part of the region, outdoor and indoor pollution might increase. The use of firewood is likely to rise as rural households try to deal with income reductions.

Effects of Covid-19 on Chile: looking through an environmental lens

Meanwhile, as winter hits central and southern Chile, urban households might increase their use of firewood for heating given that, due to the lockdowns, they have to spend more time inside dwellings. This rise in air pollution could arguably increase the risks associated with Covid-19.

Also, natural resource-based industries have been affected. For the case of the Chilean salmon aquaculture industry, the study suggests that there has been a reduction in demand from international markets. This effect is being transmitted through the value chain, affecting processing plants and farming facilities.

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Figure 2. Air pollution in Temuco (Chile)

A new agenda for future research

The authors also discuss an agenda for future research that might contribute to a better understanding of the environmental impacts and the effectiveness of different policy responses to the pandemic in Latin America. Among potential paths for future research, they acknowledge the relevance of studying consequences of the interactions between poor air quality and Covid-19 on human health. This is particularly relevant for the Latin American context, characterized by health systems with very limited capacity and high numbers of population without formal employment. They conclude that results from studies in this area could help to provide better guides to set environmental quality goals, as well as to implement policy interventions that can reduce pollution in the region’s context of income inequality and spatial segregation.

Source: Lopez-Feldman, Alejandro; Chávez, Carlos; Vélez, Ma. Alejandra; Bejarano, Hernán; Chimeli, Ariaster; Féres, José; Robalino, Juan; Salcedo, Rodrigo; Viteri, César (2020). "Environmental impacts and policy responses to COVID-19: A view from Latin America". Accepted, forthcoming in the multi-authored "Perspectives” collection articles for the Environmental and Resource Economics Special Issue “Economics of the Environment in the Shadow of Coronavirus”.

News | 8 July 2020