The COVID 19 crisis has cast a paralytic shadow on the trajectory of development. As the world is still grappling with the pandemic, we have to admit to the fact that this unforeseen enemy was always poised to strike. We must accept that a re-orientation in existing structures is necessary for us to develop resilience from any anticipated future crises.
The 2016 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Frontiers report had flagged zoonoses as an issue of global concern. Unwavering global trends have highlighted that zoonotic disease outbreaks are happening more frequently. Without human to animal transmission, the pandemic would not have presented itself so virulently. Drivers of ecosystem fragmentation have exacerbated the crisis.
It is quite prophetic that the decade 2021-2031 has been declared as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. In the recently released Zero Draft on the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the overarching Vision for 2050 is – “Biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and widely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people”1. The global narrative is vociferous in its opinion that the current mode of an indulgent lifestyle is catastrophically unviable.
Our road to recovery must be guided by heuristics that generate:
- awareness and behavioural change
- ecologically sensitive policies / legislations that are outcome based
- inclusive and participatory governance
- adequate mobilisation of finance and resources
- transparency in monitoring and evaluation mechanisms
Governments must simultaneously ensure adequate investment in natural capital for ecosystem resilience and regeneration, including the restoration of carbon-rich habitats and climate-friendly agriculture. The rebuilding process should include providing jobs in the green sectors and not necessarily in the city. The work-from-home culture should propel us towards investing more in broadband networks than in building road and rail networks, while energy from renewables must become a top priority.
Pushpam Kumar, UNEP’s Chief Environmental Economist and Senior Economic Advisor advises that the wild should be left in the wild. He says that biodiversity conservation should be firmly integrated into economic planning and investment. Finally, nature-based solutions (NBS) to environmental degradation should become the DNA of recovery activities. The NBS are actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.
The work of the United Nations Environment programme along with the others has shown that the restoration of land to achieve land degradation-neutral development by 2030 is not only far more cost-effective (cost per unit of benefit), but it also helps in poverty alleviation. Therefore, relief packages and recovery plans that overlook the restoration of biodiversity and nature are short-sighted and recipes for failure.
Our goals for the new decade must not only be ‘Sustainable’ but also be ‘Regenerative’. Our efforts should be to ‘Green’ our strategies in a way that the focus is not on sustaining the system; but for the system to revitalise itself on its own. Novel strategies should be geared towards – Restore, Accommodate and Regenerate.
- Zero Draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework – Convention on Biological Diversity
Head, India Country Office,
UN Environment Programme
This was first published as an editorial for the DA newsletter June 2020 issue.
The views expressed in the article are those of the author’s and not necessarily those of Development Alternatives.