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  • Collection Environmental Monitoring and Governance
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Nature and COVID-19: The pandemic, the environment, and the way ahead
Environmental Monitoring and Governance, Island and Ocean Ecosystems
Available Online

McNeely, Jeffrey A.

2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought profound social, political, economic, and environmental challenges to the world. The virus may have emerged from wildlife reservoirs linked to environmental disruption, was transmitted to humans via the wildlife trade, and its spread was facilitated by economic globalization. The pandemic arrived at a time when wildfires, high temperatures, floods, and storms amplified human suffering. These challenges call for a powerful response to COVID-19 that addresses social and economic development, climate change, and biodiversity together, offering an opportunity to bring transformational change to the structure and functioning of the global economy. This bio defense can include a ‘‘One Health’’ approach in all relevant sectors; a greener approach to agriculture that minimizes greenhouse gas emissions and leads to healthier diets; sustainable forms of energy; more effective international environmental agreements; post-COVID development that is equitable and sustainable; and nature-compatible international trade. Restoring and enhancing protected areas as part of devoting 50% of the planet’s land to environmentally sound management that conserves biodiversity would also support adaptation to climate change and limit human contact with zoonotic pathogens. The essential links between human health and well being, biodiversity, and climate change could inspire a new generation of innovators to provide green solutions to enable humans to live in a healthy balance with nature leading to a long-term resilient future.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND BIODIVERSITY
Environmental Monitoring and Governance, Island and Ocean Ecosystems
Available Online
The planet is currently undergoing what scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction. This tragic loss of biodiversity is largely caused by human activity through, amongst others, land use change, climate change, pollution, overexploitation and invasive alien species. States have sought to take action on this issue through implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), its protocols and targets, as well as other multilateral environmental agreements. Many have also undertaken a number of conservation efforts, including the establishment of parks, reserves, and protected areas and the mandating of environmental impact assessments. However, biodiversity loss continues, and it has become clear that the objectives of the CBD can only be met by instituting transformative economic, social, environmental, legislative, political and technological changes in a whole-of-society approach, one that protects and serves those who are most affected. Meeting these objectives and protecting and restoring biodiversity are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, preventing future pandemics, and building better in response to and recovery from COVID-19. The Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment has found that the fulfilment of a broad range of human rights depends on thriving biodiversity and healthy habitats and ecosystems. These rights include not only the right to a safe, clean and healthy environment, but also the rights to food, clean air and water, health, culture, and even the right to life. Conversely, biodiversity and habitat loss can result in violations of these and other human rights. Biodiversity loss may disproportionately harm the human rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, women and girls, children and youth, the poor, and persons, groups and peoples in vulnerable situations. States, businesses, international organizations, and other actors have procedural and substantive obligations and responsibilities under both international environmental law and international human rights law to address biodiversity and habitat loss, to prevent its negative impacts on human rights, and to ensure that actions to address biodiversity loss are equitable, non-retrogressive, non-discriminatory and sustainable. This document highlights the key human rights obligations and responsibilities with respect to biodiversity-related agreements, policies, strategies and actions.