Biodiversity and the economic response to COVID-19: Ensuring a green and resilient recovery (OECD)

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Abstract

This Policy Brief focuses on the vital role of biodiversity for human life and the importance of integrating biodiversity considerations into the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

  • The Brief first outlines how biodiversity loss is a key driver of emerging infectious diseases and poses a variety of other growing risks to businesses, society and the global economy. Investing in the conservation, sustainable use and restoration of biodiversity can help to address these risks, while providing jobs, business opportunities and other benefits to society.
  • The Brief then examines how governments are factoring biodiversity into their stimulus measures and recovery plans in practice, highlighting both concerning trends and best practices.
  • The Brief concludes with policy recommendations on how governments can better integrate biodiversity into their COVID-19 stimulus measures and broader recovery efforts.

Key Messages

  • Biodiversity underpins current and future human health, well-being and economic prosperity. Yet it is being destroyed at an unprecedented and accelerating rate, with 25% of all plant and animal species now threatened with extinction. It is therefore critical that countries integrate biodiversity considerations into their COVID-19 response and economic recovery plans.
  • Protecting biodiversity is vital for avoiding the next pandemic. Close to three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases in humans come from other animals. Land-use change and wildlife exploitation increase infectious disease risk by bringing people and domestic animals in close proximity to pathogen-carrying wildlife, and by disrupting the ecological processes that keep diseases in check.
  • The economy and human well-being also depend on biodiversity for food, clean water, flood protection, erosion control, inspiration for innovation and much more. Over half the world’s global domestic product is moderately or highly dependent on biodiversity. The ongoing decline of biodiversity therefore poses important risks to society. Investing in biodiversity as part of the COVID-19 policy response can help to minimise these risks, while providing immediate jobs and economic stimulus.
  • While government and business leaders have acknowledged the importance of a “green recovery”, the focus has been predominantly on climate change. Yet biodiversity loss and climate change are challenges of a similar magnitude and urgency, and are fundamentally interlinked. They must be addressed together as part of a broader green and inclusive recovery.
  • A number of countries have integrated biodiversity measures in their COVID-19 policy response. Examples of biodiversity measures include changes to regulation on wildlife trade to protect human health, and job programmes focussed on ecosystem restoration, sustainable forest management and invasive species control.
  • Despite some good practice examples, many countries have weakened environmental regulations or introduced stimulus measures that threaten to drive further biodiversity loss. Analyses suggest that the volume of potentially harmful spending committed as part of the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis outweighs the volume of spending beneficial to biodiversity.
  • Governments can take the following steps to integrate biodiversity considerations into the COVID-19 recovery plans, and drive the transformative changes needed to halt and then reverse biodiversity loss:
  • Ensure that COVID-19 economic recovery measures do not compromise biodiversity
    • Maintain and strengthen regulations on land-use, wildlife trade and pollution
    • Attach environmental conditionality to bailouts to drive sustainability improvements
    • Screen (ex ante) and monitor (ex post) stimulus measures for their biodiversity impacts
  • Scale up investment in biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and restoration
    • Set biodiversity spending targets for COVID-19 stimulus measures and recovery plans
    • Promote jobs in biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and restoration
    • Engage businesses and the finance sector for a biodiversity-positive recovery
  • Put a price on biodiversity loss
    • Reform subsidies harmful to biodiversity
    • Scale up economic incentives for biodiversity
  • Foster cross-sectoral and international collaboration
    • Adopt and strengthen the One Health approach
    • Support developing countries to safeguard their biodiversity
    • Develop, adopt and implement an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework.