Context: A new report released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem (IPBES), has warned that future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world, unless significant measures are taken.

Findings of the report:

  • COVID-19 is at least the sixth pandemic: To have taken place in the last century since the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. 
  • Caused by: Three of the pandemics were caused by influenza viruses, one by HIV followed by SARS and COVID-19. 
    • There are over 1.7 million undiscovered viruses that exist in mammals and birds today, out of which up to 827,000 could have the ability to infect people. 
    • About 30 percent of emerging infectious diseases are attributed to land use change, agricultural expansion and urbanisation.
    • Almost 100 percent of the pandemics so far, which includes influenza, SARS and COVID-19, have been zoonoses - diseases caused by germs that spread between animals and people.
  • Driven by human activities: While the current pandemic’s origins lie in microbes carried by animals, like all pandemics, its emergence has been entirely driven by human activities.
  • The estimated cost of the COVID-19 pandemic: Is somewhere between $8-$16 trillion, while the economic impact of the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa amounted to $53 billion.

Ways to reduce the risk of pandemic:

  • By reducing the human activities: This will help in reducing the loss of biodiversity, by greater conservation of protected areas and through measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions. 
  • Reducing the contact between wildlife-livestock and humans: Thereby helping prevent the spill-over of new diseases.
  • Policy options: Includes launching a high-level intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention, countries setting mutually agreed goals or targets and reducing zoonotic disease risk in the international wildlife trade by forming intergovernmental ‘health and trade’ partnership.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES):

  • The IPBES was established by the United Nations, but functions independently.
  • It is an independent intergovernmental body established by States to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • This will help in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development. 
  • It was established in Panama City in 2012 by 94 Governments and headquartered at Bonn, Germany.  
  • It is not a United Nations body.  However, at the request of the IPBES Plenary and with the authorization of the UNEP Governing Council in 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provides secretariat services to IPBES.