Working with the environment to protect people: UNEP’s Covid-19 response

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stands with the billions of people suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The immediate priority is to protect them. But UNEP also has a duty to help nations build back better after the pandemic to increase resilience to future crises. COVID-19 shows that the health of people and the planet are one and the same. Human activity has altered virtually every corner of Earth, bringing humans into contact with new vectors: seventy-five percent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans cross from animals. The long-term threats of climate change and ecosystem and biodiversity loss also spring from the destruction of nature. The idea that a thriving natural world is essential to human health, societies and economies has always been central to UNEP’s work. But now UNEP must provide even more support to countries as they reduce the risks of future pandemics by restoring lost ecosystems and biodiversity, fighting climate change and reducing pollution. UNEP will support nations and partners to deliver stronger science, policies that back a healthier planet and more green investments through its core mandate and Programme of Work. It will expand and strengthen partnerships with other UN agencies to address country needs as they advance the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and other crucial agreements. UNEP will pursue a just transition to new economic models that protect the world’s poor and vulnerable – for it is these people who suffer the most from pandemics and environmental degradation.