20 Nov 2020

Nature collapse imminent without investment, 'Wildlife Conservation 20' warns G20

BirdLife International joins 20 leading conservation groups - the 'WC20' ahead of this weekend's G20 Leaders’ Summit to warn that COVID-19 highlights need for urgent action - and urge that investing in nature costs a fraction of pandemic response, while driving green jobs and tackling climate change

The G20 is a forum for the governments and central bank governors of 19 countries and the EU Photo Alexey Struyskiy
By Alex Dale

BirdLife International has today joined 20 of the world’s leading conservation organisations in today calling on the G20 for urgent action to invest in nature to protect biodiversity and reduce thereby the risk of future pandemics.

World leaders gathering in Riyadh this weekend have an unparalleled opportunity to build into COVID-19 economic recovery plans specifications to conserve planetary health and reset human interactions with nature. 

The cost of conservation investment is a fraction of the estimated $26 trillion in economic damage COVID-19 has already caused. An estimated $700 billion a year investment would reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030. That’s about one-fortieth the cost of the economic fallout from the current pandemic. 

A significant proportion of this investment could come from redirecting existing harmful financing, for example in subsidies that encourage deforestation and environmental destruction. 

While the exact source of the virus remains uncertain, scientists agree that just like HIV, Ebola, SARS, Bird Flu, and MERS, COVID-19 is zoonotic: it jumped from animals to people, likely as a result of our increasing interaction with and encroachment on wildlife and their habitats. 

The pandemic, which has killed 1.3 million people to date and affected hundreds of millions more, stands as one of the starkest and most urgent warnings yet that our current relationship with nature is unsustainable. The ongoing destruction of nature across  our shared planet can be substantially reduced with positive economic and ecological outcomes. 

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Investment in nature - including ending deforestation, controlling the wildlife trade, and enhancing livelihoods of people living in or depending on natural landscapes - is not a luxury to consider alongside pandemic recovery, the WC20 said. 

Protecting biodiversity is a fundamental component of government recovery plans that will significantly reduce the risk of future pandemics and avoid similar or greater human, economic, and environmental harm. 

Investing in planetary health drives green growth and green jobs and takes us a long way towards tackling the effects of climate change and meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate. 

With lives and livelihoods adversely affected by COVID-19 across the globe, there is public consensus and support as never before for governments to act now to protect and re-establish a healthier relationship with nature

This is the watershed moment that prompted BirdLife International to help form Wildlife Conservation 20, or WC20, uniting 20 of the most prominent conservation NGOs at the forefront of protecting wildlife and ecosystems.

Patricia Zurita, BirdLife International’s CEO, said: “COVID-19 is a wake up call to everyone on this planet. Now is the moment when we must value and invest in conservation by developing sustainable nature-based economic stimulus packages.  BirdLife  believes access to a healthy planet should be a universal human right and this urgent call complements our 1planet1right.org campaign to make this so.

Otherwise, the natural world, on which we all rely, will not be able to protect us and safeguard our current and long-term well-being. Investing the recovery funds in nature will protect not only our economies but also our health.” 

On this 21 and 22 November in Riyadh, as the G20 meet, they must step up to the plate to address this crisis.”


 These organisations make up the WC20:


African Parks

African Wildlife Foundation

BirdLife International

Born Free Foundation

Conservation International

Education for Nature Vietnam

Global Initiative to

End Wildlife Crime

Environmental Investigation Agency 

Fauna & Flora International

Frankfurt Zoological Society


Jane Goodall Institute 

Paradise Foundation International

Space for Giants

The Nature Conservancy



Wildlife Conservation Society 


ZSL (Zoological Society of London) 





Notes for Editors

BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership. Together we are over 100 BirdLife Partners worldwide – one per country or territory – and growing.

BirdLife’s vision is a world rich in biodiversity, where people and nature live in harmony. We are driven by our belief that local people, working for nature in their own places but connected nationally and internationally through our global Partnership, are the key to sustaining all life on this planet.  This unique local-to-global approach delivers high impact and long-term conservation for the benefit of nature and people.

Ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit on 21 and 22 November in Riyadh, Space for Giants and ESI Media on 19 November hosted a high-level virtual summit of CEOs and senior executives from the WC20 to agree a joint declaration identifying priority actions for world leaders.

The full text of the Declaration is available at spaceforgiants.org/WC20. In summary, the WC20’s recommendations are:


  • Policy and Implementation: Strengthen, sufficiently resource, and implement existing international and domestic legislation, and enact new legislation, to ensure the legal, sustainable, and traceable use of natural resources including wildlife, that no longer threatens human or animal health.
  • Law Enforcement: Scale up financial and technical support for law enforcement in key wildlife source states, transit hubs and destination countries/territories. Adopt a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to help create an effective deterrent to wildlife crime.
  • Safeguard Natural Ecosystems: Secure government support, adequate finances, and technical expertise to effectively protect and manage natural ecosystems and wildlife so that they are valued and safeguarded, and become generators of economic wealth, and commit to scale this up to 30% of land and sea over the coming decade.
  • Support Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities: Recognise and respect the rights of IPLCs living within and/or depending on natural ecosystems, to improve human well-being, alleviate the pressures of human-wildlife coexistence, and reduce, halt, and reverse the loss of natural habitats and the associated wildlife they hold. 
  • Reduce Demand: Work with government authorities, stakeholders, civil society, and major influencers to inform the public about the dangers of zoonotic spillovers and how to lower their risks. Raise public awareness about, and reduce demand for, illegally and/or unsustainably exploited wildlife and their products