WED: We must restore, conserve, protect biodiversity to prevent future pandemics – FG


Says human must live in harmony with nature

From: Bamidele Fashube, Abuja

The Federal Government has reiterated the importance of protecting the biodiversity in order to address and guide against future pandemic.

Dr Mohammad Mahmood, the Minister of Environment disclosed this on Thursday in a briefing in Abuja as part of activities to kick start the 2020 World Environment Day (WED).

He said restoring and conserving the biodiversity remains vital to addressing the global pandemic – Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

The Minister, who emphasised the vital roles of environmentalist in addressing the COVID-19 challenge, expressed concerns that this year’s WED commemoration would have to be held in a different approach globally, due to the ravaging disease.

It is for this reason, he stressed that the United Nations deemed it necessary to address biodiversity with the theme ‘‘Time for Nature’’, with a focus on its role in providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on earth and human development.

His words: “Biodiversity is the foundation for life and there are myriads of benefits amongst which are: livelihoods and sustainable development, improvement and delivery of food security, growth, increase in job opportunity, strengthening of global healthcare support systems. The Ecosystem is the baseline that holds all of these together. Human interaction with the Ecosystem must, therefore, remain balanced, otherwise, we risk disrupting nature with their consequence as we are seeing with the COVID 19 Pandemic.”

According to him, over one million plant and animal species risk extinction, largely due to human activities. He, however, called for a combined effort to address the increasing loss of species and degradation of nature.

“…the theme is indeed very appropriate, considering the fact that Researchers and Scientist have established COVID-19 to be zoonotic. In order to fully address and prevent future pandemics therefore, we must Restore, Conserve and Protect biodiversity as key antidotes to COVID-19 recovery,” says Mahmood.

Based on recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 2020 is a year for urgency, ambition and action to address the crisis facing nature.

The Minister, however, described the pandemic as an opportunity for stakeholders to fully incorporate nature-based solutions into global climate action.

“…commemorating the day has become a powerful platform to accelerate, amplify and engage people, communities and governments around the world to take action on critical environmental challenges facing the planet.”

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has impacted the traditional activities such as tree-planting and public workshops which were undertaken to celebrate the day in the past and have necessitated new approaches in advocacy and communication.”


Increasing forest cover

As part of efforts to increase the nation’s forest cover, the Minister said different programmes are ongoing to achieve this goal.

He said the nation’s forests have been estimated to extend to around 9.6 million hectares, stressing that government has been expanding the project with added efforts of the Great Green Wall, REDD+ and the Green Bonds supported afforestation projects.

While calling on the need to remain committed to realising the climate targets, he emphasised that protecting the biodiversity, particularly during post COVID recovery would help drive sustainable growth.

“Biodiversity remains the answer to a number of sustainable development challenges that we all face. From nature-based solutions to climate, to food and water security, and sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity remains the basis for a sustainable future.”

The Minister further restated the government’s commitment to the Global Biodiversity Framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity, which Nigeria, he noted is leading the ECOWAS Member-States on Post 2020 Biodiversity Framework.

He attributed this to the commitment made by President Muhammadu Buhari at the 74thUN General Assembly in New York, where he revealed plans to plant 25 million trees to mitigate the effects of Climate Change in Nigeria.

This process, the minister said is being driven by the Environment Ministry and the relevant agencies such as the National Great Green Wall Agency.

He revealed that, as a symbolic gesture to the 25 million trees commitment, he would be donating a million seedlings to the Kaduna State government Friday.

“It is our ardent prayer and hopes that the seedlings would be properly utilized to mitigate the effect of biodiversity, climate change and improve on our natural habitats.”

He further rolled out achievements of the ministry. “The FG also set up a National Forestry Trust Fund under the forestry department of the Ministry.

“The Ministry in partnership with Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) with the support of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), are working together on coalition on nature, referred to as Nature Means Business which will target the private sector and Sub-nationals to act on agreed environmental principles that will guide their business operation to reduce the impact of business on biodiversity loss.

“It is worthy to note that our development support partner, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program (REDD+) is currently running in 6 states in Nigeria covering all the forest zones. This is a program that conserves already existing forest and enhances carbon stock.”

He further assured the willingness of the government to preserve and restore biodiversity. Also, maintaining a healthy environment and safeguarding the ecosystems.

“The pandemic has shown us that we need to find ways to live in harmony with one another and also with nature,” he noted.

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