Close this search box.

Claim: ‘COVID-19 has shown what happens when we destroy nature’ – ‘Transformative change is urgently needed’ to avoid new pandemics

For years, we have ignored the silent crisis of biodiversity loss, but we cannot risk another damaging decade for nature

By Marco Lambertini | WWF International

COVID-19 is an unprecedented global health crisis. But it has also been a wake-up call to the risks posed by our destructive relationship with the natural world.

The 2021 Global Risk Report, published this week by the World Economic Forum, reveals that environmental concerns including climate change and biodiversity loss – linked to the rise in global pandemics – are among the top long-term risks the world will likely face in the next 10 years.

Science is clear that the destruction of nature is increasing our vulnerability to pandemics, accelerating climate change and placing livelihoods at risk. For years, we have ignored the silent crisis of biodiversity loss. Just last October, a U.N. report revealed that the world had failed to meet any of its previous decade-long biodiversity targets. The COVID crisis must serve as the trigger for transformative action once and for all.

Transformative change is urgently needed in our productive sectors, including our food systems, forestry, fisheries, infrastructure and extractives, and in the finance sector. These transformations need to happen fast if we are to limit risks of higher restoration costs and irreversible damage, including new pandemics and species extinction.

We must transform our food systems so that enough healthy and nutritious food is produced for all, within planetary boundaries. Presently, the way we produce and consume food is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss, land and water use, deforestation and conversion, producing around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that there are huge opportunities to feed the world in a way that works with nature, not against it.

Alongside shifting diets and reducing food loss and waste, boosting nature-positive production provides game-changing solutions that will help deliver long-term food security within planetary boundaries. This will involve supporting farmers and fishers to sustainably manage areas already used for food production, to improve yields and maximise biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The adoption of agroecological practices will reduce inorganic fertiliser and pesticide use, aiding the rehabilitation of degraded or underperforming soils. Healthy soils, more pollinators and higher yielding lands will reduce pressure to convert nature for agriculture and will allow some disused farmland to be restored to natural habitat.

COVID underlines what happens when humanity’s relationship with nature is broken. Our irresponsible behaviour towards nature is endangering our own health – a stark reality we’ve been ignoring for decades. This is our wake-up call. We must tackle our nature crisis urgently, working together with commitment at the highest political and corporate level to secure both human and planetary health.