COVID-19 is a wake-up call – more worrying in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss – on how pressures on nature threaten development and fairer societies

COVID-19 and its unprecedented effects on human development are a wake-up call to the potential consequences for people’s wellbeing from the relentless pressure we are placing on nature and the planet.

The pandemic has also cast light on how our interconnected societies face vulnerabilities anywhere until threats are addressed everywhere. Moreover, these vulnerabilities are carving deeper cleavages in societies and are set to become ever more worrying in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The 2020 Human Development Report will delve into these issues and focus on how to rekindle our relationship with nature and improve people’s lives today and in the future, in balance with the planet.

“It makes no sense to think of people - and development - as somehow separate from the planet. We are embedded in nature. Neglecting this not only threatens future generations with catastrophic risks but is already blighting the lives of many today,” says Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP.

Climate change, biodiversity loss, and land use change point to an unprecedented moment in our 200,000 years as a species and in the 4.6 billion years of the Earth, in which humans have now become a geological force. Some argue that we are living in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. These human-led impacts risk our common future and are also already eroding opportunities and destroying the livelihoods of many, threatening to deepen existing inequalities.

”We are better prepared than ever to understand the risks and threats that we confront, but also to act upon them,” says Conceição. “Decisive action is needed now, and it is feasible if we confront the social, economic, and technological challenges that stand in the way of 'transforming our world', as called for in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

All too often, development reports focus on nature or on people. This is a false dichotomy in the Anthropocene. With the natural and social sciences, along with the humanities, now collaborating more intensely, new insights are emerging that can inform the public debate and decision making. The 2020 report will draw on these findings, bringing together the latest understanding of planetary systems and analysis of our unequal world within a people-centered human development lens that looks at the fate of people and planet side by side.

The Sustainable Development Goals have already mapped out a future the world aspires to achieve. This report will discuss the steps needed to get there, and how to take them. It will consider the power of shifting social norms and values, the role of science and technology, scaling up the use of nature-based solutions, and shifting market incentives for the allocation of capital and resources.

New metrics to guide decision making will also be unveiled, offering insights into the evolution of ecosystems and their interaction with people.

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