The world has changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lives, economies and institutions across the globe have been upended. Over the next five years, countries will be struggling to rebuild their economies. This will be happening in the context of the worsening impacts of climate change, dramatic loss of biodiversity globally, and the increasing risks of further future pandemics. All three crises are inter-related, all reflecting the destructive toll that human activity has taken on our planet over the past two centuries. In that time, we have transformed 73 percent of the land on Earth. A mere 23 percent of terrestrial ecosystems remain intact. One million species are threatened with extinction. If forests continue to be cleared and degraded for roads, commercial agriculture, extractive industry and other uses at present rates, it will not be possible to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, given the estimate that intact forests store around 510 billion tons of CO2 in their vegetation alone —equivalent to more than eleven years of global carbon emissions from all sectors. At the same time, ecological degradation isincreasing the risk of pathogen spillover and further zoonotic disease outbreaks; activities such as conversion of forest for human use and trade of mammals and birds into large urban centres that elevate contact between humans and wildlife accentuate the risk of viral spillover, outbreaks, and an emerging transmissible disease causing an epidemic or pandemic.
23 September 2021