Harvey Locke Lake in Winter

A group of 21 international conservation and sustainable development groups unite with a “Nature-Positive” response to the pandemic

The pandemic has hit a world that is already facing a planetary emergency due to the interrelated global crises of climate change, the degradation of natural ecosystems and the accelerating loss of biodiversity.

Covid-19 highlights the critical connection between the health of nature and the health of humans, this must be better reflected in our priorities, policies and actions.

Confronting these intertwined crises requires an integrated approach and unprecedented cooperation to achieve an equitable carbon-neutral, nature-positive economic recovery and a sustainable future.

Y2Y is among a group of 21 non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations (see full list below) with mandates at the nexus of environmental protection, the conservation of nature and the promotion of sustainable development.

Our mandates and approaches are diverse, but we are united in the understanding that sustainably managing our natural environment — and empowering its stewards — must be an integral part of Covid-19 response and recovery.

We urge governments, including those in the Yellowstone-to-Yukon region, to establish bold policies and take resolute action to make this a reality and have therefore offered our recommendations to policymakers for meeting this challenge.

The policy recommendations are available now.

Implications for Nature:

Coronavirus originated as a zoonotic disease, or one that spread between animals and people. This has highlighted the consequences of disrupting the balance between humanity and nature at the scale we have seen over the past century.

Natural habitat degradation from agricultural and urban expansion, climate change, pollution and wildlife trade are the root cause of pandemics such as Covid-19.

Security and Economic Well-Being:

The nature and climate crises reinforce each other and exacerbate other crises for human well-being including extreme events, poverty, inequality, illness and hunger. The sudden economic downturn precipitated by the pandemic has highlighted the fragility of the “safety net” we have tried to put in place to conserve nature.

And as we grapple with the enormity of “building back better” from the pandemic, many of the most effective and cheapest solutions may lie in protecting, conserving and restoring nature.

Recommendations from the report:

1.      Halt degradation and loss of natural ecosystems as a public health priority

Human activities are degrading nature at an unprecedented rate, directly affecting our resilience to future pandemics. To prevent the next pandemic, we must halt loss of natural forests and habitats, implement demand-side policies around commodity consumption, secure legal land tenure recognition protected area management, restore degraded lands and intensify international cooperation and finance to conserve and restore natural ecosystems. 

2.      Reform livestock production to reduce zoonotic pandemic risk

Expansion of livestock production and trade has intensified interactions between people, livestock and wild animals and thereby increased risks of zoonotic disease spillover to both humans and livestock. In an effort to reform how livestock are produced and traded, we must enact controls around large concentrations of livestock in confined spaces, strengthen and enforce standards in livestock supply chains from producer to consumer, work with pastoral communities and livestock enterprises to minimize disease risk and reduce overall meat and dairy consumption. 

3.      Reduce zoonotic disease risk posed by commercial wildlife trade and markets

The commercial trade in wild animals (hunting, butchering, transporting, handling and marketing for human consumption and other uses) creates a serious risk of zoonotic spillover. To mitigate this risk, we should end or strictly regulate handling and marketing of wild animals for human consumption, strengthen legal capacities against illegal wildlife trafficking, launch public awareness campaigns against handling of live animals, ensure traditional and sustainable hunting practices are not penalized, increase finance for developing countries to more regulate wildlife trade, and address risk of zoonotic disease through a One Health approach. 

4.      Protect recent conservation investments in the face of Covid-19 pressures

The pandemic and its impacts on economies, mobility and policy are impeding implementation of billions of dollars in conservation investments. To safeguard these investments governments can support protected area management facing exploitation, support landowners and Ingenious Peoples to ensure rights are not undermined, provide emergency support to vulnerable communities on or near protected land, provide support to communities engaged in wildlife and nature-based tourism, strengthen support for monitoring wildlife trafficking, and strengthen laws to protect natural ecosystems.

5.      Enact policies and strategies for a nature-positive Covid-19 economic recovery

Protecting nature is not just important for pandemic prevention, it’s also critical for financial recovery from coronavirus. In order to “build back better” governments should:

  • avoid relaxation of environmental regulations in the name of pandemic recovery,
  • maintain space for civil society to serve an effective monitoring and transparency function,
  • provide income support for to reduce poverty-induced encroachment,
  • attach green conditions for corporate bailouts,
  • apply spatial planning to harmonize nature protection with sustainable development,
  • repurpose subsidies towards activities that conserve nature,
  • invest in technologies for more effective conservation,
  • enable private sector investment for nature-based solutions,
  • invest in young people to develop skills related to nature-positive economies, and
  • mobilize international development cooperation to support a sustainable economic recovery.

Y2Y stands with stands with our peers in urging policymakers to take a nature-positive response to Covid-19:

1t.org – Nicole Schwab, Co-Director

Bank Information Center – Elena Berger, Executive Director

Birdlife International – Patricia Zurita, CEO         

Conservation International – M. Sanjayan, CEO

Capitals Coalition – Mark Gough, CEO

Earth Day Network – Kathleen Rogers, President

Earth League International – Andrea Crosta, Founder and Executive Director

Global Environment Facility – Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and Chairperson

Imagine – Paul Polman, Chair

International Fund for Animal Welfare – Azzedine Downes, President and CEO

International Primatological Society – Karen B. Strier, President

Mission Blue – Sylvia Earle, President and Chair

Nature4Climate – Lucy Almond, Director and Chair

Thinking Animals United – Bonnie Wyper, President

The Nature Conservancy – Jennifer Morris, CEO

Tropical Forest Alliance – Justin Adams, Executive Director

Wildlife Conservation Society – Cristián Samper, President and CEO

World Business Council for Sustainable Development – Peter Bakker, President and CEO

World Resources Institute – Andrew Steer, President and CEO

WWF International – Marco Lambertini, Director General

References and further reading:

Global Goal for Nature Group. 2020. COVID-19 Response and Recovery: Nature-Based Solutions for People, Planet and Prosperity. November. 

Header photo: Harvey Locke