At the European Parliament’s International Trade (INTA) committee’s 21 April 2020 meeting, Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan revealed that he was unaware of the link between loss of biodiversity and the coronavirus.
The question of such a link was raised twice by INTA members. First, Helmut Scholz (the European United Left - Nordic Green Left) asked what impacts trade has had on the emergence of COVID-19, expecting the Commission, and DG Trade in particular, to provide facts and figures on the relationship between trade and the loss of biodiversity, which has been identified by many economists and scientists as one of the main causes of the virus.
Saskia Bricmont (Greens/European Free Alliance) later suggested addressing the root causes of the virus and putting an end to our indirect contributions to environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and deforestation, proven factors of the virus.
Phil Hogan responded that he “certainly” had never heard of the link between loss of biodiversity and the COVID-19 crisis, and that he would ask the World Health Organisation (WHO) for their analysis of the causes triggering this virus, or to provide facts associated with the virus outbreak.
In response to his statement – surprising, given that media and scientists have been covering growing evidence of such links for months, and indeed years – scientists have written a letter to Mr Hogan informing him of the growing body of evidence linking deforestation, destruction of natural habitats and biodiversity loss, and zoonoses such as COVID-19. For more information, see Fern’s blog, The Guardian (also here), Le Monde, IPBES, the Journal of the Royal Society, and more historically, Nature (2008 and 2017), and the Haut Conseil de la Santé Publique 2011.
The current pandemic has cruelly exposed flaws in our global economic systems and the need for their re-evaluation. Meaningful transformation is required to save lives and livelihoods, and world decisionmakers with highly pertinent portfolios cannot ignore fundamental relationships of cause and effect. As a major importer of commodities that drive global deforestation, the European Commission must act to ensure that forests are protected and restored to prevent future COVID-19-like outbreaks.