Loss of ecosystems worsens climate impacts and increases risk of next pandemic

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The large-scale destruction of nature increases the risk of future pandemics and worsens climate change, heads of the United Nations biodiversity office warned on Thursday.

Their warnings come ahead of a major global conference on biodiversity loss scheduled for next month in Montreal, where governments are trying to sign a new global agreement to halt biodiversity loss, reports The Canadian Press.

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Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, said this is a critical time for the world to elevate the destruction of biodiversity to the same level of concern we have for climate change.

“Scientists have been very clear: our planet is in crisis,” she said during a briefing with reporters.

In Paris in 2015, almost every country in the world agreed to accelerate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming.

Maruma said in Montreal the hope is to get agreement from most countries to take action that will halt the decline of species and habitats by the end of this decade, and recover much of what which has already been lost by 2050.

“It is estimated that at least 90% of the world’s ecosystems have been modified to date,” she said. “More than one million species are currently threatened with extinction.”

David Cooper, the convention’s deputy executive secretary, said the ramifications were far-reaching, including for human health and safety. Extreme weather events are compounded by the breakdown of natural protections such as coastal marshes that help reduce storm surge energy during a hurricane.

“The pandemic has also highlighted and reinforced the importance of protecting the natural environment,” he said. “People understand that something is wrong with our relationship with nature when we have this growing risk of pandemics. And we know, indeed, that the more we destroy nature, the greater the risk of new diseases emerging. .

Studies have shown that as human development encroaches on wildlife habitats, there are more interactions between humans and animals, increasing the risk of more animal-borne viruses making the leap to wildlife habitats. humans, explains CP.

Cooper said he believes the world’s population is finally ready to do something about habitat loss.

“This may be the time when nature, biodiversity, is being equated with climate change in the political realm, probably catching up with public opinion in many ways,” he said.

Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, currently in Egypt for the annual UN climate talks on implementing the promises of the Paris agreement, wholeheartedly agrees.

“I think for a long time nature protection has not received the attention it deserves,” Guilbeault said. “I really think that’s changing and I think we’ll have very concrete proof of that in Montreal in just a few weeks.”

Nearly twenty objectives of the draft agreement on biodiversity are on the negotiating table at the Montreal conference. They include protecting 30% of the world’s land from development by 2030 and halving the establishment of invasive species.

Others include reducing pesticide use, eliminating plastic pollution, and eliminating or reforming government subsidies that harm biodiversity.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 10, 2022.

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