Biodiversity and the economic response to COVID-19: Ensuring a green and resilient recovery

This policy brief “outlines how biodiversity loss is a key driver of emerging infectious diseases and poses a variety of other growing risks to businesses, society and the global economy. Investing in the conservation, sustainable use and restoration of biodiversity can help to address these risks, while providing jobs, business opportunities and other benefits to society.”  

After outlining the scale and consequences of biodiversity loss the paper examines whether and how governments are taking biodiversity into account in covid 19 economic stimulus measures. Of 17 major economies 8 have economic stimulus packages directing funds to sectors such as agriculture, energy, industry, transport and waste that can have a significant impact on nature and biodiversity and “In 14 out of the 17 economies, the volume of finance flowing to these sectors that is potentially harmful to biodiversity (e.g. bailouts for polluting companies without environmental conditions) outweighs financial flows to these sectors that is potentially beneficial (e.g. investments in ecosystem restoration).” In only 3 of the 17 countries assessed potentially beneficial economic flows outweigh potentially harmful flows.

Responses to Covid 19 that further threaten biodiversity included the relaxation of environmental regulations “…some governments have weakened land-use policies, waste collection requirements, air and agricultural pollution standards, project permitting processes (including environmental impact assessment rules), and environmental monitoring and reporting requirements.”

Policy recommendations

The paper concludes with detailed policy recommendations on how to better integrate biodiversity into COVID-19 stimulus measures and broader recovery efforts under the following headings.

1. Ensure that economic recovery does not compromise biodiversity

  • Maintain or strengthen regulation on land use, wildlife trade and pollution
  • Attach environmental conditionality to bailouts to drive sustainability improvements
  • Screen and monitor stimulus measures for their biodiversity impacts

2. Scale up investment in biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and restoration

  • Promote jobs in biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and restoration
  • Engage businesses and the finance sector for a biodiversity-positive recovery

3. Put a price on biodiversity loss

  • Reform biodiversity-harmful subsidies
  • Scale up economic incentives for biodiversity

4. Foster cross-sectoral and international collaboration

  • Adopt and strengthen the One Health approach
  • Support developing countries to safeguard their biodiversity
  • Develop, adopt and implement an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework

This paper makes it clear that measures to address short term economic and social needs should not be at the cost of environmental sustainability including biodiversity loss.

“A key challenge for governments is to ensure that the measures they introduce effectively address immediate social and economic needs, while promoting longer-term resilience, human health, well-being and sustainability. With this in mind, government and business leaders across the globe have called for a green and inclusive recovery to COVID-19. However, the focus of this rhetoric and the green stimulus measures introduced to date has largely been limited to climate change, with much less attention given to biodiversity. Biodiversity loss and climate change are challenges of a similar magnitude and urgency, and are fundamentally interlinked. They must be addressed together as part of broader efforts to achieve a green and inclusive recovery.”

Why would you recommend it to other people?

The paper illustrates the gap between rhetoric and action to improve environmental sustainability. The policy recommendation section includes useful examples of relevant action to avoid biodiversity loss and references frameworks that evaluators may not be familiar with such as: the OECD COVID-19 Green Recovery platform, which includes a list of 13 headline environmental indicators; the EU Sustainable Taxonomy under which an economic activity can be considered environmentally sustainable if it “substantially contributes” to at least one of the six environmental objectives while doing “no significant harm” to any of the other objectives; and the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Guidance on Integrating Biodiversity Considerations into One Health Approaches.


OECD (2020). Biodiversity and the economic response to COVID-19: Ensuring a green and resilient recovery. Retrieved from: