Conservation International Shares Policy Recommendations Linking Nature and COVID-19 Recovery

May 14, 2020

Solutions address interconnected economic, social and environmental wellbeing

Arlington, Va. (May 14, 2020) – Conservation International today released recommendations to support governments currently working to implement COVID-19 recovery plans. The guidance includes solutions with multiple co-benefits to support economic recovery, environmental stability, the development of sustainable livelihoods, and public health.

According to leading economists, investments that could deliver the highest value in the form of job creation and long-term economic performance include commitments and policy decisions that protect and enhance natural capital.

“Despite its devastating effects, this crisis is creating an opportunity for policymakers to champion solutions that not only rebuild lives and spur economic activity, but also accelerate the transition to lasting sustainable societies,” said Lina Barrera, Vice President for International Policy at Conservation International. “We really have a chance to do this right. By investing in nature now we will come out of this more resilient later.”

According to Barrera, some of the highest return on investment and the recovery solutions with the most proven co-benefits include policies based in ecosystem restoration, sustainable agriculture, and future-proofed infrastructure:

Large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts, usually  supported by government programs have the potential to create jobs,33 jobs for every $1 million invested. Additionally, domestic carbon markets and taxes that include natural climate solutions, successful in Costa Rica and Colombia, help create incentives for restoration and conservation while at the same time generating government revenue and stability for local communities.

Sustainable and climate-friendly agriculture is key for delivering economic and environmental goals. More than 26 percent of global employment is found in the agriculture industry and in developing countries this number jumps to more than half. To ensure long-term economic stability, governments should invest in local farmers, establish incentives and low-interest loans encouraging companies and farmers to transition to sustainable practices that slow deforestation yet enhance yields and outputs.

Future-proofed infrastructure, or infrastructure projects grounded in sustainability and renewables create more than double the job opportunities than traditional fossil fuel-based development. Additionally, green-gray infrastructure or approaches that combine built and natural infrastructure are shown to be anywhere between 20-80% more cost-efficient. Building projects provide connectivity to local communities, offer employment, spur economic development and can be done in ways that are less harmful to the environment therefor protecting public health and long-term resilience.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has revealed the vulnerability of humanity, and our shared dependence on what is happening globally. It also shows us that degrading nature endangers us all,” said James Roth, Conservation International Senior Vice President for Global Policy and Government Affairs. “These recommended solutions would deliver the widest range of economic, social and health co-benefits in response to the coronavirus pandemic while engaging indigenous peoples and local communities, keeping ecosystems healthy and tackling climate change – another global crisis we are facing.”

“We need to tell people right now that there is a series of things we need to do once we’re out of this mess to make sure it never happens again,” said Lee Hannah, Conservation International Climate Change and Biology Senior Scientist, in a recent interview. “Research on the ecology of diseases concluded that biodiversity loss and deforestation are key drivers behind pandemics. Solutions to one also benefit the other and the time is now to make smart investments for the benefit of human health.”

The following Conservation International experts are available to discuss the link between COVID-19 and nature, policy recommendations and related case studies from South Africa, Peru and the Philippines. To arrange an interview, please contact Jessica Brown (jbrown@conservation.org) or Kipp Lanham (klanham@conservation.org) in the Conservation International media relations office.

  • Sebastian Troëng, Executive Vice President, leads the delivery of conservation solutions across Conservation International’s field programs. In his role he regularly advises heads of state, ministers, corporate CEOs and community leaders on sustainability and conservation matters.
  • James Roth, Senior Vice President for Global Policy and Government Affairs, leads policy efforts with an emphasis on nature-based climate solutions and sustainable landscapes and seascapes. In his role he advises high-level government officials and staff in the United States and worldwide. He previously served in multiple roles on Capitol Hill and served in the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
  • Lina Barrera, Vice President for International Policy, leads development and implementation of strategies to influence globally important policies related to climate change, biodiversity, the oceans and sustainable development.
  • Lee Hannah, Senior Climate Change Biology Scientist, develops research-based solutions to slow climate change and protect biodiversity. He can speak to the cost and benefits of investing in nature-based pandemic solutions.
  • Herbert Lust, Vice President and Managing Director of Conservation International Europe, works with European government and corporate decision-makers on issues related to conservation, philanthropy and sustainable supply chains to reduce the European Union’s carbon footprint.
  • Fanny Gauttier, Senior Manager for European Policy at Conservation International Europe, oversees engagement with European governments and decision makers on deforestation, biodiversity and climate issues.

About Conservation International

Conservation International works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people. Through science, partnerships and fieldwork, Conservation International is driving innovation and investments in nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, supporting protections for critical habitats, and fostering economic development that is grounded in the conservation of nature.  We work in 30 countries around the world, empowering societies at all levels to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet. Follow Conservation International's work on Conservation NewsFacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTube.