October 15, 2020
Stanford researchers help Belize plan for sustainable, nature-based development to create more economic resilience amid global pandemic
Drawing on research by Stanford scientists, countries like Belize are finding new ways to supplement their devastated ecotourism-driven economies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before COVID-19 struck, Belize was a popular tourist destination for ziplining, scuba diving and glimpsing jaguars in their natural jungle habitat.
But with a global pandemic keeping international travelers away, its ecotourism-driven economy is in trouble.
To prevent even more economic fallout, the country launched an ambitious plan this month based on research from the Stanford Natural Capital Project to jumpstart its economy by investing in its ecosystems.
“This is about creating a resilient economy that values and protects the natural resources that sustain it,” said Adrian Vogl, lead scientist at the Stanford Natural Capital Project and team lead for the technical development of the plan. “Belize is a world leader in using a science- and data-driven approach to incorporate the benefits from ecosystems into their sustainable development planning.”
The researchers used open-source mapping software to pinpoint the benefits that Belize’s people and economy draw from the country’s Chiquibul-Mountain Pine Ridge-Caracol Complex natural area, such as its biodiverse forests and rivers, clean water and food production. They also helped the government account for the economic gains that ecosystems provide and track how those gains might change depending on how they choose to develop an area.
The rich rainforests and Mayan ruins of the region normally pump more than $15 million USD each year from 13 tourism sites and 27 resorts. When tourism collapsed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers and the Office of the Prime Minister’s sustainable development team realized Belize could no longer depend on it as an economic driver.
Fortunately, the team had spent over a year engaging with community members from businesses, agriculture, non-governmental organizations and government to better understand the ways local people rely on the natural area. They concluded that, in addition to tourism and recreation opportunities, the region provides drinking water to one-third of all Belizeans. For the local community, it is a source of timber for building, food like corn and beans, and traditional medicinal plants. It’s also a place to celebrate their Mayan cultural heritage by growing and harvesting the crops of their ancestors
Combining local feedback with technical maps from the Natural Capital Project-developed InVEST software, the Stanford researchers created recommendations to support people’s economic needs while protecting critical ecosystems. These activities include sustainable forestry and agriculture, protection of water sources and an increased focus on domestic, rather than international, tourism.
Developing the tourism market for other Belizeans was an important part of creating a more resilient plan. The Mayan cultural sites and ecotourism activities have the potential to attract Belizeans, but until now the government’s economic council and tourism board haven’t really advertised the area inside the country. A new market of Belizean visitors could leverage current ecotourism infrastructure while buffering against the volatility of international tourism.
The researchers also see similar opportunities for other countries whose ecotourism industries have been hard-hit by COVID-19 to rethink their economies. They emphasize that one natural area can provide a diversity of benefits to the economy. By using tools like InVEST, government planners can make choices that protect natural benefits and create stable footing for their economy.
With the region’s Sustainable Development Plan in hand, and with airports recently open to tourists again, the Office of the Prime Minister says it’s now more prepared to develop sustainably.
“This bold and innovative master plan offers us the opportunity for Belize to pioneer a landscape management approach to its protected areas, setting a notable example for our region and beyond,” said Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow. “I have every confidence that together we will achieve economic development while protecting our rich biodiversity for the wellbeing of generations to come.”
The Sustainable Development Plan process was led by Belize’s Office of the Prime Minister and Economic Development Council with support from the Inter-American Development Bank and Stanford’s Natural Capital Project. The University of Belize Environmental Research Institute also provided technical support.
Canada’s economy beat expectations in August but likely slowed in September – Global News
Statistics Canada says the pace of economic growth slowed in August as real gross domestic product grew 1.2 per cent, compared with a 3.1 per cent rise in July.
The August figure was stronger than the average forecast of 0.9 per cent for August provided by economists polled by financial data firm Refinitiv.
But in a preliminary estimate, Statistics Canada says growth for September slowed to about 0.7 per cent.
The agency says overall economic activity was still about five per cent below the pre-pandemic level in February.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Losses mount for oil majors as pandemic grips global economy – CTV News
Exxon Mobil reported its third consecutive quarter of losses as the global pandemic curtails travel and cripples global economic activity.
The energy giant on Friday posted a $680 million third-quarter loss and revenue tumbled to $46.2 billion, down from $65.05 billion during the same quarter last year.
The string of losses and what could be a money-losing year is new territory for Exxon Mobil.
“This is a business that’s made a billion dollars a quarter on average from 2011 to 2018 and it’s had a rough go,” said Peter McNally, global sector lead for industrials, materials and energy at Third Bridge, a research firm.
Already struggling with weak prices from oversupply, the pandemic is taking a heavy toll on oil and gas companies. The price of U.S. benchmark crude has fallen 40% since the start of the year. The cost for a barrel of oil tumbled 10% just this week as coronavirus infections surged in the U.S. and abroad.
“We remain confident in our long-term strategy and the fundamentals of our business, and are taking the necessary actions to preserve value while protecting the balance sheet and dividend,” said Darren Woods, CEO in a prepared statement. “We are on pace to achieve our 2020 cost-reduction targets and are progressing additional savings next year as we manage through this unprecedented down cycle.”
The The Irving, Texas, company produced 3.7 million barrels of oil per day in the third quarter, up 1% from the second quarter. But production was down compared to the third quarter of 2019, when Exxon pumped 3.9 million barrels of oil per day.
Also on Friday, Chevron reported losses of $207 million after turning in a profit of $2.9 billion last year. It brought in $24 billion in revenues, down from $35 billion during the same period last year.
“It’s not going well,” McNally said. “You have to squint at some of the things to find things that are good.”
And the third quarter was an improvement compared with the last, when oil futures crashed below zero. Exxon and Chevron lost a combined $9 billion.
Oil prices appeared to stabilize this quarter, however, and better conditions enabled Exxon to recover some of its production curtailments, the company said.
Demand for refined products also improved, and chemical sales volumes rose as demand for packaging increased and automotive and construction markets recovered, Exxon said.
On Thursday Exxon announced 1,900 job cuts in its U.S. workforce and Chevron, after closing on its acquisition of Noble Energy earlier this month, said it would cut a quarter of that company’s jobs.
Oil demand is expected to fall 8% globally this year, according to the International Energy Agency. While some demand has recovered since oil fell below $0 a barrel in April, countries are again locking down as the coronavirus surges anew across Europe and the U.S.
Canada's economy moves into 'recuperation phase' as second-wave impact looms – The Globe and Mail
Canada’s economic recovery continued to moderate as summer wound down, leaving activity still well short of pre-pandemic levels before the second wave of the COVID-19 virus hit, new data from Statistics Canada show.
The agency reported Friday that real gross domestic product (GDP) rose 1.2 per cent in August from July, slightly more than its preliminary estimate of 1 per cent. It was the fourth straight month of growth, as the economy continued its rapid rebound from the lockdowns in the spring aimed at containing the virus, although the pace of the recovery has been slowing after the dramatic effects of the re-openings in May and June.
Statscan also published an advance estimate for September of 0.7-per-cent growth – which, if accurate, would mean the economy expanded by about 10 per cent in the third quarter, consistent with Bank of Canada and private-sector estimates. But that still leaves the economy about 4 per cent below its pre-COVID levels.
With October’s sharp increase in the spread of the virus, both in Canada and abroad, renewed virus-containment restrictions threaten to put the brakes on the recovery.
“The economy is now moving into the recuperation phase, where additional gains in economic activity are harder to come by. With pandemic-related uncertainty weighing on business and consumer confidence, most industries are struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels of output,” Toronto-Dominion Bank senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam said in a research note.
The August GDP gains were led by a continued strong recovery in the service sectors of the economy (up 1.5 per cent), which were more deeply affected by the spring lockdowns and subsequent re-openings, while goods-producing sectors grew a more modest 0.5 per cent. Economists noted that the segments that drove much of August’s gains – services such as arts, entertainment and recreation (up 13.7 per cent) and accommodation and restaurants (up 7.3 per cent) – stand to be the hardest hit in the second-wave containment measures, as authorities focus on reducing contact through indoor gatherings.
“The way forward has been deeply clouded by the second wave and renewed restrictions, so growth will cool considerably in the fourth quarter,” Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter said in a research report.
Earlier this week, the Bank of Canada issued new forecasts predicting fourth-quarter growth of only 0.2 per cent quarter over quarter – or 1 per cent annualized – in light of the second wave of the pandemic and the return of some government-mandated closures and business restrictions. Ontario and Quebec have already shut down indoor restaurants and bars in large urban centres where COVID-19 cases are highest, while other provinces are clamping down on indoor gatherings and debating whether additional measures are warranted.
Some economists think the central bank’s forecast is overly pessimistic.
“We suspect that with ongoing massive fiscal support, less restrictions than earlier, and, simply, that consumers and businesses have learned to operate in this new environment, the late-year setback should be relatively mild,” said Mr. Porter, who forecast that quarterly growth would top 2 per cent annualized.
“We think there is still scope for continued rebounds in those sectors not directly affected by the restrictions, so we are pencilling in a much larger fourth-quarter gain of 5 per cent annualized,” said Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics, in a research note.
But the COVID-19 virus remains a massive wild card in any economic forecast, as a growing number of countries face the prospect of renewed restrictions – while at the same time eagerly looking forward to the growing possibility of a viable vaccine in early 2021.
“We are now in a phase of the recovery that could see strong winds and dangerous tides. Navigating through the turbulence will not be easy, as much will depend on the course of the virus,” TD’s Mr. Thanabalasingam said. “Getting the spread under control could right the ship, but seas will remain choppy without a vaccine or effective treatment.”
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