The Independent unites leading conservationists in landmark declaration at G20

Twenty leading global conservation organisations tell world leaders they must invest in nature now to prevent future pandemics

Emma Ledger
Saturday 21 November 2020 19:14 GMT

The Independent has secured a landmark agreement with 20 of the world’s leading wildlife organisations on the urgent action needed to avert another pandemic.

The declaration, which was brokered as part of our Stop The Illegal Wildlife Trade campaign, was delivered to G20 leaders as they joined their annual summit, this year hosted by Saudi Arabia and held virtually.

It told the world leaders they have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to capitalise on public demand to invest in nature to protect people and the planet.

Read more: Dr Jane Goodall on why wildlife trafficking must end

Among the organisations that signed the declaration were the World Wildlife Fund, Zoological Society of London, the African Wildlife Foundation, the Paradise Foundation, Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International and the Jane Goodall Institute.

Covid-19 jumped from animals to people because of humanity’s increasingly unbalanced relationship with the natural world, warned the Wildlife Conservation 20, or WC20, in the joint declaration.

We are working with conservation charity Space for Giants to protect wildlife at risk from poachers due to the conservation funding crisis caused by Covid-19. Help is desperately needed to support wildlife rangers, local communities and law enforcement personnel to prevent wildlife crime. Donate HERE
We are working with conservation charity Space for Giants to protect wildlife at risk from poachers due to the conservation funding crisis caused by Covid-19. Help is desperately needed to support wildlife rangers, local communities and law enforcement personnel to prevent wildlife crime. Donate HERE (The Independent)

The group told the G20 leaders in a statement: “Covid-19 has been a wake-up call to everyone on this planet. Now is the time to value and invest in nature by developing sustainable nature-based economic stimulus packages that embrace a One Health approach and address long-term planetary health, food security, poverty alleviation, climate change, and biodiversity loss and work towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“That is why the WC20 calls on the G20 nations to implement greater investment in addressing this critical present imbalance with nature. Otherwise, the natural world, on which we all rely, will not be safeguarded for the long-term well-being and security of current and future human generations, and for all life on earth.”

The agreement was made following three days of discussions hosted by The Independent and our campaign partner, the international conservation charity Space for Giants.

The final text was agreed when leaders of all 20 charities joined a final virtual session Thursday.

As well as being delivered to the G20, the declaration was delivered to 10 Downing Street and the White House, as well as to all the London embassies of the G20 nations.

It is the first time that the conservation sector has convened in such large numbers to present a united request to the world’s leading economic states.

Oliver Poole, executive editor of The Independent’s parent company ESI Media who was in Saudi Arabia today as the declaration was delivered, said: “This is a remarkable moment that has seen the conservation sector unite to send a clear message to the G20 that things must change.

“I am incredibly proud of the role The Independent has played with our charity partner Space for Giants, in enabling this to happen, and we look forward to working with all these organisations to achieve the rebalance with nature they demand as we continue with our campaign.”

The W20 said in its declaration that investing in nature – including ending deforestation, controlling the wildlife trade, and enhancing livelihoods of people living in or depending on natural landscapes – was not a luxury to consider alongside pandemic recovery.

Protecting biodiversity was the most important component of government recovery plans that would significantly reduce the risk of future pandemics and avoid similar or greater human, economic, and environmental harm.

The cost of these investments, the conservation leaders said, would be a fraction of the estimated £20 trillion in economic damage Covid-19 has already caused. By one recent estimate, £525bn a year would reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030, roughly one-fortieth the cost of the economic fallout from the pandemic.

The group’s five key recommendations to G20 leaders include the need to strengthen and implement existing laws while inking new ones to protect wildlife and habitats, ramping up law enforcement to fight wildlife trafficking, safeguarding natural ecosystems with investment, supporting local communities, and tackling demand for wildlife products.  

Dr Max Graham, CEO of Space for Giants, our campaign’s charity partner, said “Covid-19 is a terrible reminder of what can happen if we don’t respect nature, and there are many other signs, in loss of species, in deforestation, in pollution.

“This really is a watershed moment when public opinion is massively supportive of the G20 governments taking the measures needed to protect wildlife and the natural world. They can also act and know that it’s cheaper to invest in nature to reduce the risk of pandemics, than to deal with the awful economic fallout they cause.”

A copy of the declaration can be found here.

The organisations that make up the WC20 are African Parks, African Wildlife Foundation, BirdLife International, Born Free Foundation, Conservation International, Education for Nature Vietnam, the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime, Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna & Flora International, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Freeland, Jane Goodall Institute, Paradise Foundation International, Space for Giants, The Nature Conservancy, TRAFFIC, WildAid, Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF,  and Zoological Society of London.

Donate to Space for Giants, the charity partner of The Independent’s Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade campaign, HERE

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