IPBES publishes workshop report on biodiversity and pandemics

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has unveiled a workshop report on biodiversity and pandemics that documents the link between the factors that are driving biodiversity loss and the broader degradation of nature, and the risks of the rise of new pandemics.

The drivers of biodiversity loss, which IPBES shed light on with their landmark 2019 global assessment, include the unsustainable exploitation of ecosystems and species, and the alteration of their habitats through land conversion for agricultural or industrial expansion. The report calls for transformative shifts in human behaviors that lie behind the drivers of biodiversity loss to prevent future pandemics like COVID-19.

The authors of the report call for action with a strong emphasis on the conservation of natural systems and wild areas, and changes to the types of consumption, globalized agricultural expansion and trade patterns that have led to pandemics.

The report also calls for heightened surveillance and increased scrutiny of sanitary risks that may be posed by trade in wildlife that originates in disease hotspots, increased efforts to counter illegal trade and wildlife crimes that degrade natural systems, and valuing indigenous peoples and local communities’ engagement in addressing pandemics.

The report argues that a stronger emphasis on the prevention of pandemics would not only bolster nature conversation, but that it would also make economic sense: the cost of taking steps to prevent pandemics is estimated to be 100 times lower than the cost of responding to them.

Ultimately, the report warns, an estimated 1.7 million unknown viruses may currently be circulating in wild spaces, some of which may be able to spill over to humans more rapidly than COVID-19 and cause more damage than the current pandemic has.

Developed following a workshop convened in early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IPBES report was produced by 22 experts from around the world. This included the CITES community, as Parties were encouraged to liaise with their respective IPBES Focal Points regarding the development of this report, with special attention to issues of interest to CITES.