Population health and the environment are inextricably linked, and improving both human and planetary health relies upon all sectors uniting in transformational change, writes Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity
The G7 comes together at a crucial time for the health of people and the planet. COVID-19 is not only a health crisis; it is also an economic, social and environmental crisis. As such, it cannot be tackled in isolation. The fight against COVID-19, and the plans to build back better after we have passed the peak of the crisis, require cooperation across all domains, a whole-of-government approach that also mobilises science and business – an approach that recognises the connection between human health and the health
and resilience of nature.
We will need an integrated approach to health and the environment, along the lines of the One Health approach. This involves designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes. It is necessary not only as we work to recover from the crisis, and to build back better, but also as we work to create an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework. If we work together to take care of nature, nature takes better care of us.
Biodiversity is the foundation of human health. It supports food security, dietary health and livelihoods. It plays an important role in the regulation and control of infectious diseases.
The continuing loss of biodiversity on a global scale directly threatens our health and well-being. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem change, such as through land-clearing or habitat fragmentation, can increase the risk of the emergence or spread of infectious diseases in animals, plants and humans.
Nature and the diversity of microorganisms, flora and fauna are the source of medicines and antibiotics for treatments. Thus, biodiversity loss may limit the discovery of potential treatments for many diseases and health problems.
Furthermore, biodiversity loss can have an impact on community traditions and livelihoods centred on traditional medicinal practices that use wild animals and plants, particularly for Indigenous peoples and local communities.
Biodiversity beyond 2020
The next 10-year global framework for biodiversity protection – the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, negotiated over the remainder of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 – can play a significant role in building the resilience we need in the face of growing environmental, health and development challenges.
It will serve as the overarching framework on biodiversity for not only the Convention on Biological Diversity, but also all biodiversity-related agreements and, indeed, the entire United Nations system.
The development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework provides a critical window of opportunity to set out an ambitious plan of action to stem the loss of biodiversity and put nature on a path of recovery.
This may include well-defined, ambitious and measurable targets for the post-2020 biodiversity agenda.
The framework offers an unparalleled opportunity to set a shared global policy direction for the next decade, where biodiversity at all levels is conserved, restored and sustainably used, and the benefits from nature are delivered to all people.
The post-2020 global biodiversity framework for biodiversity conservation will engage all stakeholders: countries, cities, subnational governments, Indigenous peoples and local communities, industry, women, youth, farmers, civil society and the private sector.
A transformational change is needed in the approaches taken to safeguard, restore and invest in biodiversity. This involves changes in behaviour at the levels of producers, consumers, governments and businesses. It involves a deeper understanding, based on scientific evidence, of the factors, motivations and levers that can facilitate such transformational change. And it involves innovation in the means of implementation and accountability.
A transformative, systemic change across multiple sectors and actors is needed if we are to avoid the catastrophic biodiversity losses predicted for the near future. To achieve the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals of progress for people, planet and prosperity, we must ensure the healthy functioning of the very ecosystems that underpin human life itself.
There is also an unprecedented opportunity to ensure greater alignment and policy coherence within our respective countries, communities and institutions, and also across the range of global commitments, including the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The success of each of these global commitments is ultimately contingent upon all sectors coming together to achieve the shared goals of healthy societies and a healthy planet.