Discussion with international guests explores biodiversity loss and wildlife trade as causes of pandemics
Today in Berlin, Federal Environment Minister Schulze will discuss with high-level guests and experts from Germany and abroad how Germany and its international partners can promote the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and functioning ecosystems. The Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) aims to establish a global biodiversity framework and combat illicit wildlife trafficking with all means available. The event is organised as a hybrid event, taking place at the Federal Environment Ministry in Berlin with international guests participating through video calls.
Federal Environment Minister Schulze said: "Over the past few months, the international community has taken important measures to overcome and mitigate the direct social, political and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. But we have to realise that there is another crisis lurking behind the crisis caused by the pandemic. The advancing destruction of previously intact habitats increases the risk of diseases being transmitted from animals to humans. Prevention and control of pandemics requires commitment to international nature conservation and species protection."
About 60 percent of human infectious agents originate from animals, including the human im-munodeficiency virus (HIV), ebola, influenza, and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are both caused by a coronavirus. Scientists have confirmed that the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of intact ecosystems by humans make transmissions of novel infectious diseases from animals to humans more likely. Wildlife markets and trade can also increase the risk of infections.
Experts have been warning for quite some time that this practice cannot continue. According to the IPBES report, around one million species could become extinct within the next few decades if we do not change our behaviour. A look at farming and forestry shows how certain practices can drive this development. Soy and palm oil is cultivated in regions that are especially rich in biodiversity. The rapid progress of cultivation often leads to the destruction of natural habitats and loss of species.
This 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has been postponed to next year. The Federal Environment Ministry will promote the establishment of a new ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework together with the international community. Another priority is combating illicit wildlife trafficking with all means available, including methods used to fight organised crime. At international level, Germany also supports measures to better control the international trade in nationally protected species and better regulate high-risk wildlife markets through international measures and close them if health risks cannot be ruled out. The Federal Environment Ministry also supports projects to combat poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking and to conserve ecosystems and protected areas, the latter often in cooperation with local and indigenous communities.
Dr Christoph Heusgen (Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York), John E. Scanlon (Special Envoy for African Parks, former CITES Secretary-General), Prof. Simone Sommer (Director, Institute of Evolutionary Ecology, Ulm University) and Dr Sue Lieberman (Vice President for International Policy, Wildlife Conservation Society) will join Minister Schulz for the virtual exchange.