The European Commission will launch research on “One Health” and bring in legislation to prevent goods linked to deforestation from being sold in European markets as part of concerted action to protect local sustainable development and biodiversity.  

Speaking virtually on Monday at the 4th edition of the “One Planet Summit,” an initiative launched by France with the United Nations and the World Bank, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that over the next four years, the commission will invest several hundred million euros for research on biodiversity, animal health, emerging diseases and much more.

“Just as we cooperate for our ‘One Planet,’ we need to work together for our ‘One Health.’ This is why we will prioritize research on ‘One Health’ across Horizon Europe,” said von der Leyen.

She said we know the links between biodiversity loss and pandemic outbreaks like COVID-19 and Ebola are clear, and if there is no urgent action to protect nature, “we may already be at the beginning of an era of pandemic.”

She added that being a major economy and trading superpower with responsibilities, Europe will lead the way to ensure that the single market does not drive deforestation in local communities in other parts of the world.

“Later this year, we will propose new legislation to minimize the risk of products linked to global deforestation being placed on the EU market.”

The one-day summit at the Élysée Palace was largely a virtual event with notable absence from the US, India, Russia and Brazil. It was attended by about 30 heads of the state, environment ministers from Europe, Africa and Latin America, leaders of international organizations, financial institutions, economic sectors and NGOs including UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, World Bank President David Malpass, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, Britain’s Prince Charles, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng.

The summit focused on four topics: protecting terrestrial and marine ecosystems; mobilizing funding to protect biodiversity, promoting agroecology; and identifying links between deforestation and human health.

Several initiatives were launched under each of these themes, including a high ambition coalition comprising 50 governments committed to safeguarding at least 30% of protected areas and another coalition to make the Mediterranean an “exemplary sea by 2030, a coalition of countries committing 30% of financing for climate and biodiversity, a task force on Nature-related Financial Disclosure (TNFD) to allow investment by the private sector in companies committed to nature, mobilization of funding for the protection of biodiversity, the promotion of agroecology, PREZODE to prevent the risks of zoonotic emergencies and pandemics, an alliance for the Preservation of Tropical and Humid Forests and the Great Green Wall accelerator to promote agroecology in the Sahel region.

At the investment forum for the Great Green Wall initiative held before the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron said under the accelerator strategy, over $14 billion would be raised between 2021-25 for the 11 countries of the Sudan-Saheli belt stretching from Senegal to Djibouti.

The strategy envisions to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land in the West African countries, sequester 250 million tons of carbon and create 10 million jobs by 2030.

Macron reiterated that France is committed to the entire Sudan and Sahel region, especially to security and stability, and this was closely linked with supporting biodiversity, creating jobs and local sustainability.

He announced that the French Development Agency will invest €600 million over the next four years for the rural population of West Africa and the Sahel under the planned resilience for Africa initiatives and increase France’s contribution to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Responding to the demand raised by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani for the need of a biodiversity fund in each of the countries and debt relief to implement the initiatives under the agroecology framework, Macron affirmed positively.

“Debt restructuring for the African countries is a key component of the support. We will continue on this road at the Montpellier Africa-France summit in July,” he said.

Britain will also allocate $4 billion over five years to projects aimed at protecting and restoring nature and biodiversity, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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