Conservation International Statement in Support of Wildlife Conservation 20’s Urgent Message to the G20: Invest in Nature or Face Growing Pandemic Risk

November 20, 2020

Arlington, Va. (November 20, 2020) – Today, Conservation International’s CEO Dr. M. Sanjayan released the following statement in support of the “WC20” declaration, which calls on global leaders to prioritize nature in COVID-19 economic recovery plans and prevent future pandemics.

The joint declaration targets this weekend’s G20 Leaders’ Summit and was released by the WC20, a coalition of 20 of the world’s leading conservation organizations, including Conservation International. It encourages urgent investments to limit movement of wildlife that may transmit disease to people and protect Earth’s natural ecosystems to prevent the emergence of zoonotic diseases and pandemics, like COVID-19.

The G20 Leaders’ Summit takes place this weekend in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, presenting an unparalleled opportunity to ensure the conservation of nature is front and center of COVID-19 economic recovery plans. 

Read the full text of the declaration here.

Dr. M. Sanjayan said: “The WC20 announcement is a remarkable consensus among conservation groups about the future of the planet.  It demonstrates how the world can prevent future pandemics and safely and more effectively recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. If there’s one lesson that we need to take away from this moment, it’s the fact that our health and the health of our planet are inextricably linked – we can prevent future pandemics by taking care of nature. The WC20’s recommendations present a clear path forward for governments that recognize this fact and are working to create a healthier relationship with nature.

“Stopping the illegal wildlife trade is obviously a crucial part of these efforts, but we cannot overlook another essential step: stopping rampant deforestation.

"When forests are cut down, animals come into closer contact with people, increasing the likelihood that diseases will spread to humans. Deforestation also forces animal to live in increasingly smaller areas, which makes it easier for them to spread diseases between each other. A One Health approach that ties together the health of our planet and the health of humanity is a necessary step to ensure the wellbeing of people, economies and our future. 

“Saving nature has always been about saving ourselves, which is why we must take this opportunity to protect habitats and wildlife. Investing in nature is the most effective way that we can prevent pandemics and the devastation they bring.”

The WC20 declaration builds on Conservation International research published in the journal Science earlier this year. It breakdowns the cost savings between the cost of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the green investments needed to prevent future pandemics. The difference in savings equals trillions over an initial 10-year span. 

In summary, the WC20’s recommendations are:

  • Policy and Implementation: Strengthen, sufficiently resource, and implement existing international and domestic legislation, and enact new legislation, to ensure the legal, sustainable, and traceable use of natural resources including wildlife, that no longer threatens human or animal health.
  • Law Enforcement: Scale up financial and technical support for law enforcement in key wildlife source states, transit hubs and destination countries/territories. Adopt a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to help create an effective deterrent to wildlife crime.
  • Safeguard Natural Ecosystems: Secure government support, adequate finances, and technical expertise to effectively protect and manage natural ecosystems and wildlife so that they are valued and safeguarded, and become generators of economic wealth, and commit to scale this up to 30% of land and sea over the coming decade.
  • Support Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities: Recognize and respect the rights of IPLCs living within and/or depending on natural ecosystems, to improve human well-being, alleviate the pressures of human-wildlife coexistence, and reduce, halt, and reverse the loss of natural habitats and the associated wildlife they hold. 
  • Reduce Demand: Work with government authorities, stakeholders, civil society, and major influencers to inform the public about the dangers of zoonotic spillovers and how to lower their risks. Raise public awareness about, and reduce demand for, illegally and/or unsustainably exploited wildlife and their products.

The WC20 declaration is the result of a virtual summit held yesterday, hosted by Space for Giants and ESI Media, which brought together 20 of the world’s leading conservation organizations, dubbed the WC20.

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. Conservation International works 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 News, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.