A new initiative involving 20 of the world’s leading conservation organisations, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, today issued an unprecedented joint declaration to the G20 calling for urgent action to invest in nature to protect biodiversity, reduce the risk of future pandemics, and safeguard the long-term well-being and security of current and future human generations.
World leaders gathering in Riyadh this weekend have an unparalleled opportunity to build into COVID-19 economic recovery plans that include long-lasting actions to conserve nature and help prevent future pandemics.
Dr. Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO, in joining the WC20 Declaration, said: “COVID-19 has been a wake-up call to all of us. Now is the time to value and invest in nature, and to ensure that any post-COVID19 economic stimulus packages address the biodiversity, climate change, and health crises in an integrated fashion. In particular, WCS urges G20 countries to prioritize protection of highly intact forests and other ecosystems, and work in particular to end commercial wildlife trade and markets for human consumption as well as all illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade.
“We support the WC20 effort to call on the G20 countries to implement greater investments in addressing this critical present imbalance with nature, and to fully embrace a One Health approach as articulated in the Berlin Principles of 2019. Biodiversity cannot be an afterthought in post-COVID19 recovery; it is an essential element. Business-as-usual is not an option, and there can be no healthy people without a healthy planet.”
Scientists agree that just like HIV, Ebola, SARS, Bird Flu, and MERS, the coronavirus causing COVID-19 is zoonotic: it jumped from animals to people, likely as a result of the increasing human-wildlife interface, including commercial wildlife trade and markets.
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 must change as a matter of urgency.
Investment in nature - including ending deforestation, protecting highly intact ecosystems, ending illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, and commercial wildlife trade for human consumption in particular, is not a luxury to consider alongside pandemic recovery. It is essential.
The cost of these investments is a fraction of the estimated $26 trillion in economic damage COVID-19 has 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.
A significant proportion of this investment could come from redirecting existing harmful financing, for example in subsidies for intensive agriculture, unsustainable fisheries, and fossil fuels. Investing in nature drives green growth and green jobs, and will take us a long way towards tackling the effects of climate change and meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Owing to the global shock of COVID-19 and the attention it has brought to the damage humanity is causing the planet, there is massive public support for governments to act to protect nature.
This is the watershed moment that prompted the formation of the Wildlife Conservation 20, or WC20, joining 20 of the most prominent conservation NGOs at the forefront of protecting wildlife and ecosystems.
The WC20 represents this conservation community, which has come together to collectively articulate the steps needed to seize this unprecedented opportunity.
Ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit on 21 and 22 November in Riyadh, Space for Giants and ESI Media on 19 November hosted a high-level virtual summit of senior executives from the WC20 to agree a joint declaration identifying priority actions for world leaders.
Full text of the Declaration is here. In summary, the WC20’s recommendations are:
Policy and Implementation: Strengthen, sufficiently resource, and implement existing international and domestic legislation, and enact new legislation, to ensure the legal, sustainable, and traceable use of natural resources including wildlife, so that it no longer threatens human or animal health.
Law Enforcement: Scale up financial and technical support for law enforcement in key wildlife source states, transit hubs and destination countries/territories. Adopt a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to help create an effective deterrent to wildlife crime.
Safeguard Natural Ecosystems: Secure government support, adequate finances, and technical expertise to effectively protect and manage natural ecosystems and wildlife so that they are valued and safeguarded, and become generators of economic wealth.
Support Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities: Respect the rights of IPLCs living within and/or depending on natural ecosystems, to improve human well-being, alleviate the pressures of human-wildlife coexistence, and reduce, halt, and reverse the loss of natural habitat loss and the associated wildlife they hold.
Reduce Demand: Work with government authorities, stakeholders, civil society, and major influencers to inform the public about the dangers of zoonotic spillovers and how to lower their risks.
These organisations make up the WC20:
African Wildlife Foundation
Born Free Foundation
Education for Nature Vietnam
End Wildlife Crime
Environment Investigation Agency
Flora & Fauna International
Frankfurt Zoological Society
Jane Goodall Institute
Paradise Foundation International
Space for Giants
The Nature Conservancy
Wildlife Conservation Society
Zoological Society London
ESI Media co-hosted the WC20 summit as part of its global campaign to Stop The Illegal Wildlife trade, in partnership with co-host and WC20 member Space for Giants.