Whereas the COVID-19 crisis has an immediate impact on our societies with potential far-reaching consequences, we cannot lose sight of the fundamental planetary emergency caused by nature degradation and climate disruption.
A statement on the COVID-19 pandemic by IUCN European Regional Office.
IUCN, and its European Regional Office, stands in solidarity with all who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Europe has been hit particularly hard, with measures to control the spread of the virus now in place across the continent. We hope that we will soon be witness to a marked and lasting improvement of the situation, knowing that in order for that to happen we must all do our part. This is a crisis demanding collective action.
In the run up to 2020, we saw promising momentum for nature and climate action, which resulted in positive developments such as the EU Green Deal. The COVID-19 outbreak, however, poses a challenge to this momentum, not only because a number of landmark initiatives had to be postponed – including key elements of the mentioned EU Green Deal such as the EU Biodiversity Strategy, but also the future Common Agricultural Policy, and the development of the global post-2020 biodiversity framework. We have also noticed discussions about a potential shift in priorities, as some argued that dedicated resources should now be committed towards a business-as-usual economic recovery scenario.
The current crisis is an important moment to reflect on the current paradigms and step up our efforts to deal with the existential environmental challenges we face. At present, more than 31,000 or 27% of all species assessed under the IUCN Red List are threatened with extinction; in Europe, based on an assessment last year, this is the case for over half (58%) of Europe’s endemic trees. Habitat loss, diffuse pollution, over-exploitation of resources, growing impacts of invasive alien species, climate change, and other forms and consequences of human activity are key drivers of species decline. Moreover, most of them are also – through increasing contact between humans and other animals – drivers of emerging zoonotic diseases.
We welcome the call from European ministers, many of which are State Members of IUCN, as well as the broader coalition of decision makers, led by members of the European Parliament to keep the EU Green Deal and the accompanying investments as a top priority to build a more resilient Europe. They remind us of an important lesson from the COVID-19 crisis; that early action is essential. Like these ministers, IUCN’s European Regional Office remains committed to supporting and advancing the ambitious EU Green Deal set forth by the European Commission.
Important steps in unlocking the investment to deliver the EU Green Deal are accounting for natural capital and the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy, a classification system for sustainable economic activities. This will impact all sectors, including agriculture, forestry, energy, infrastructure and water, to use science-based evidence to reduce impacts on biodiversity and integrate the value of nature more effectively in business models and decision-making. EU and private sector financial mechanisms should provide a return to forest and land owners to ensure the provision of ecosystem services, to better manage forests and landscapes to achieve both conservation targets and economic opportunities, as well as many other benefits to society.
Luc Bas, IUCN European Director, noted, “If we want a more resilient post-COVID-19 Europe we will need to scale up investment in Nature-Based Solutions, for which we need a strong accounting of our natural capital at EU level.”
We sincerely hope that the human tragedy arising from the current crisis is alleviated as soon as possible. With the understanding that the world following COVID-19 will forever be altered, we hope that this is a transformation for the better. To this end, keeping a strong financial commitment and a swift implementation of the EU Green Deal is crucial to guarantee a bright future for Europe.