New IPBES report shows link between biodiversity and pandemic prevention
Today, Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze presented the IPBES report on biodiversity and pandemics together with representatives of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The report warns that pandemics arising from the destruction of nature could occur with even greater frequency in the future. Pandemics are caused by the same factors that contribute to biodiversity loss – above all by human interference in previously intact ecosystems, for example as a result of global agricultural expansion and intensification and unregulated wildlife trade. To mitigate the risk of future pandemics, the IPBES recommends investing more in preventive measures to protect nature. In April, Schulze had asked IPBES to compile current global knowledge on biodiversity and pandemics.
Federal Environment Minister Schulze remarked: "The destruction of nature is the crisis behind the crisis, as human health is directly dependent on an intact natural environment. As we focus our efforts on overcoming this acute crisis, it is important not to lose sight of the root causes of the pandemic and to do everything possible to prevent future pandemics. Although pandemics originate in animals, their emergence is driven by human activities. This also means that we as human beings can do something and are not powerless. The IPBES report shows that we can lower the risk of pandemics if we reduce global environmental changes caused by humans. This requires large investments in the conservation, sustainable use and restoration of ecosystems. But compared to the cost of a pandemic, the cost of prevention is much lower."
IPBES Executive Secretary Dr Anne Larigauderie: "The report gives policymakers new insights into how to mitigate the risk of pandemics and prevent the pandemics of the future. It is one of the most scientifically robust and up-to-date studies undertaken since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic – although it was produced in record time. We would like to congratulate all of the authors of this important study and thank Minister Schulze and the German government for their support – both for the research work and as the host country of the IPBES Secretariat."
Dr Sandra Junglen, leader of the Ecology of Emerging Arboviruses working group at the Institute of Virology, Charité University Medicine Berlin said: "The IPBES workshop on biodiversity and pandemics clearly shows the correlation between the destruction of nature and the emergence of new diseases that have spread from animals to humans. The speed at which ecosystems are being destroyed and animal species are becoming extinct suggests that we will see more frequent epidemics with new types of diseases occurring at shorter intervals in future. This is why we urgently need to rethink how to prevent epidemics through nature conservation and climate action."
The economic costs of responding to pandemics could drastically exceed spending on preventive measures. This means that more should be invested in preventive measures in future, such as the One Health approach, which takes a collective view of the health of humans, animals and the environment. According to the scientists, countries must work together to combat and prevent pandemics and define common goals and measures that involve all affected sectors and stakeholders in society. Land-use changes, agricultural expansion and intensification and wildlife trade must be assessed and regulated in the context of pandemic prevention.
The Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) is committed at national and international level to gaining a better understanding of what causes pandemics and how to counteract them. The BMU has its own Corona Response Package with measures to support developing countries and emerging economies in tackling the coronavirus crisis in the short term with about 68 million euros provided by the ministry's International Climate Initiative. One focus of the measures is also pandemic prevention. The package includes emergency aid for protected areas and biodiversity hotspots, support for climate-friendly economic recovery and projects to improve resilience to future pandemics.
In international negotiations, too, the BMU is committed to ensuring that lessons are learned from the pandemic. This includes an ambitious new post-2020 global biodiversity framework to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity. The BMU also aims to initiate negotiations at international level for a protocol on combating wildlife crime under the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.