March 25, 2020 Wednesday
MANILA, 25 March 2020 – The Climate Change Commission (CCC) calls for bolder and more coordinated global action on sustainable biodiversity management to avoid outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The call comes ahead of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference scheduled in October, where countries are set to adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework that seeks to bend the curve on biodiversity loss by 2030.
However, travel restrictions and quarantine measures being implemented to contain COVID-19 have resulted in the postponement of several preparatory meetings for the upcoming conference.
The World Health Organization has recently warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating as global cases breached the 350,000 mark and fatalities soared past 15,000.
In the Philippines today, the Department of Health confirmed 90 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths yesterday, bringing the national total to 552 infected individuals with 35 fatalities.
As governments around the world scramble to protect their citizens from the disease, more scientists and disease experts are attributing the emergence of new viruses and infectious diseases to the destruction of natural biodiversity and ecosystems worldwide.
Data from the United States Agency for International Development showed that nearly 75 percent of all new, emerging, or re-emerging diseases affecting humans at the beginning of the 21st century are results of the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans.
In an interview with CNN, Professor Kate E. Jones, Chairperson of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College London underscored the inextricable link between healthy ecological systems and human well-being.
“The chance of more [spillovers into humans] happening is higher because we are degrading these landscapes. Destroying habitats is the cause, so restoring habitats is a solution," she said. "It's not ok to transform a forest into agriculture without understanding the impact that has on climate, carbon storage, disease emergence and flood risk. You can't do those things in isolation without thinking about what that does to humans," she added.
Environmental and ecological stability is one of the seven strategic priorities of the Philippine National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2011-2028, which is now being updated by the CCC and relevant government agencies based on the latest climate science.
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on the Global Warming of 1.5 °C warned that climate change could exacerbate the adverse impacts of zoonotic diseases to public health, with health risks increasing at higher degrees of warming.
In response to this, the CCC has been advocating for the development and implementation of ecosystem-based adaptation solutions that are promotive of sustainable forest management, coastal habitat conservation, integrated resource management, and livelihood resilience.
Moreover, the CCC is also calling for the stricter implementation of the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 and the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992—landmark environmental laws authored by Global Champion For Resilience former Senator Loren Legarda, now House Deputy Speaker and Antique’s congresswoman.
The enforcement of said laws, according to the CCC, will not only ensure the conservation of the country’s biodiversity but will also mitigate the outbreak of public health emergencies linked to due to highly infectious pathogens in the future.