Act now to invest in nature or face biodiversity collapse, warns WC20

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A new initiative involving 20 of the world’s leading conservation organizations Friday issued an unprecedented joint declaration to the G20 calling for urgent action to invest in nature to protect biodiversity and reduce the risk of future pandemics.
A new initiative involving 20 of the world’s leading conservation organizations Friday issued an unprecedented joint declaration to the G20 calling for urgent action to invest in nature to protect biodiversity and reduce the risk of future pandemics.

LONDON — A new initiative involving 20 of the world’s leading conservation organizations Friday issued an unprecedented joint declaration to the G20 calling for urgent action to invest in nature to protect biodiversity and reduce the risk of future pandemics.

World leaders gathering in Riyadh for the G20 have an unparalleled opportunity to build into COVID-19 economic recovery long-lasting action to conserve planetary health and reset human interactions with nature.

While the exact source of the virus remains uncertain, scientists agree that just like HIV, Ebola, SARS, Bird Flu, and MERS, COVID-19 is zoonotic: it jumped from animals to people, likely as a result of our increasing interaction with wildlife.

The pandemic, which has killed 1.3 million people to date and affected hundreds of millions more, stands as one of the starkest and most urgent warnings yet that our current relationship with nature is unsustainable.

Investment in nature — including ending deforestation, controlling the wildlife trade, and enhancing livelihoods of people living in or depending on natural landscapes — is not a luxury to consider alongside pandemic recovery, the WC20 said.

Protecting biodiversity is perhaps the most important component of government recovery plans that will significantly reduce the risk of future pandemics and avoid similar or greater human, economic, and environmental harm.

The cost of these investments is a fraction of the estimated $26 trillion in economic damage COVID-19 has already caused. By one recent estimate, $700 billion a year would reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030. That’s about one-fortieth the cost of the economic fallout from the current pandemic.

Much of this does not need to be new money. A significant proportion of this investment could come from redirecting existing harmful financing, for example in subsidies that encourage deforestation and environmental destruction.

Investing in planetary health including directing climate finance towards nature-based solutions drives green growth and green jobs, and takes us a long way towards tackling the effects of climate change and meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate.

With lives and livelihoods adversely affected by COVID-19 across the globe, there is public consensus and support as never before for governments to act now to protect and re-establish a healthier relationship with nature.

This is the watershed moment that prompted the formation of the Wildlife Conservation 20, or WC20, uniting 20 of the most prominent conservation NGOs at the forefront of protecting wildlife and ecosystems.

The WC20 represents the voice of this conservation community, which has come together to articulate the steps needed to seize this unprecedented opportunity.

In a joint statement, the WC20 said: “COVID-19 has been a wake up call to everyone on this planet. Now is the time to value and invest in nature by developing sustainable nature-based economic stimulus packages that embrace a One Health approach and address long-term planetary health, food security, poverty alleviation, climate change, and biodiversity loss and work towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“That is why the WC20 calls on the G20 nations to implement greater investment in addressing this critical present imbalance with nature. Otherwise, the natural world, on which we all rely, will not be safeguarded for the long-term well-being and security of current and future human generations, and for all life on earth.”

Ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Riyadh, Space for Giants and ESI Media on Nov. 19 hosted a high-level virtual summit of CEOs and senior executives from the WC20 to agree a joint declaration identifying priority actions for world leaders.

“COVID-19 is a terrible, terrible reminder of what can happen if we don’t respect nature, and there are many other signs, in loss of species, in deforestation, in pollution,” said Dr. Max Graham, CEO of Space for Giants.

“This really is a watershed moment when public opinion is massively supportive of the G20 governments taking the measures needed to protect wildlife and the natural world. They can also act and know that it’s cheaper to invest in nature to reduce the risk of pandemics, than to deal with the awful economic fallout they cause.” — SG


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