WWF: ‘We remain at risk for next pandemic unless urgent action is taken’
In the report ‘COVID 19: urgent call to protect people and nature’ governments around the world are called upon to halt both high risk wildlife trade and unregulated deforestation, and to preserve natural habitats. This applies also to the Guianas. A recent study shows that the illegal wildlife trade in jaguar parts for traditional medicines in Asia is increasing dramatically. Another study points out that the forests of the Guiana Shield are most affected by poorly regulated gold mining, which has increased exponentially since the early 2000's.
In the report commissioned by WWF, the global Consulting firm Dalberg emphasises that the design of a green recovery economy package has to start now. The package should enable businesses to embark on a just transition to sustainability and conserve natural resources. At the same time governments have to support vulnerable communities to protect their livelihoods in sustainable and resilient ways.
All available evidence suggests that COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, meaning it jumped from wildlife to humans. Factors that drive of zoonotic diseases are land-use change, expansion and the intensification of agriculture and animal production, and the consumption of high-risk wildlife. Numerous warnings from scientists, thought leaders and global institutions such as the World Economic Forum (WEF), have before raised the alarm over the risk of a global pandemic. WEF ranked pandemics and infectious diseases as one of the top global risks over a decade ago, posing ‘an acute threat to human life’.
Work with nature
In announcing the report, David Singh, director of WWF Guianas stated: “We must urgently recognize the links between the destruction of nature and human health, or we will soon see the next pandemic. With our unique, rich biodiversity Suriname and Guyana can show the world that nature is the basis for our health and a sustainable economy. This starts with the decisions from governments, companies and people. There is no debate, and the science is clear; we must work with nature, not against it. Unsustainable exploitation of nature has become an enormous risk to us all.”
WWF Guianas calls for a dialogue on the future of Suriname and Guyana and a transition to an inclusive and sustainable economy. Not only short-term profit should be the guideline, but building a healthy and just society. The COVID-19 crisis demonstrates that systemic changes must be made to address the environmental drivers of pandemics.
Path to recovery
WWF advocates for a New Deal for Nature and People that sets nature on the path to recovery by 2030 and safeguards human health and livelihoods in the long-term. The upcoming UN Biodiversity Summit, scheduled to take place in September 2020, is a key moment for world leaders to accelerate action on nature ahead of critical decisions on the environment, climate and development, now due to be taken in 2021. Together, these decisions represent an unmissable opportunity to transform our relationship with nature and secure a sustainable future for people and the planet.
Read the executive summary of the report HERE