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UN cancels biodiversity meeting in China over coronavirus fears

February 6, 2020, 10:10 AM UTC

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Good morning.

In October this year, China will play host to the UN’s fifteenth global summit on biodiversity, or the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). However, a preparatory meeting due to convene in Yunnan province later this month has been relocated to Rome as the novel coronavirus epidemic grips China.

“The CBD Secretariat recognizes the enormous efforts being taken by the Government of the People’s Republic of China to control the outbreak and the need to avoid any disruption of these efforts,” said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, CBD acting executive secretary.

There’s something ironic in the coronavirus derailing a talk on biodiversity. The new virus—much like its sister diseases, SARS and MERS—is suspected of originating in animals and crossing over to humans as we encroach further on wild ecosystems.

“We are coming into contact with species of wildlife and their habitats that we were not with before,” Dr. Ben Embarek of the WHO’s department of nutrition and food safety told the BBC.

The as-of-yet unnamed coronavirus that has infected nearly 30,000 people is suspected of originating in a food market in Hubei province, where live wild animals were sold. SARS is thought to have leapt to humans from civet cats—also sold in Chinese markets.

After the current viral outbreak gained media attention in late January, Beijing temporarily banned the trade of wildlife. Campaigners argue the ban should be permanent, but Beijing has tried and failed to enforce similar measures before.

Fortune’s Grady McGregor has an excellent article out today that details how China’s food sourcing practices have increased the country’s susceptibility to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases. When China attempted to modernize its food markets in the past, McGregor says, the action led a black market boom—which was even more dangerous.

“The pattern (of disease outbreaks) will keep repeating itself until we ban, not only in China, but in other countries, the sale of wildlife, specifically for food and in food markets,” Christian Walzer, chief global veterinarian for the Wildlife Conservation Society, told McGregor.

Some zoonotic disease development appears more down to timing than contact, and not at all due to meat consumption. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) spread from camels to humans in 2012, but camels are thought to have carried the disease since the 1990s and humans have been in close proximity to the animals for centuries.

Nevertheless, when the CBD returns to Yunnan in October for its global summit, hopefully the coronavirus outbreak will be over but the implications of its origin won’t be forgotten.

More below.

Eamon Barret
eamon.barrett@fortune.com

CARBON COPY

Fire ‘em up

Japan plans to build 22 coal-burning power plants across 17 different sites over the next five years as the nation, in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, turns its back on the cleaner energy source. Japan relies on coal for a third of its energy. That figure is expected to drop to a quarter, despite the investment in new plants, as old ones retire. New York Times

 

Greenbacked

European funds dedicated to sustainable investing received a record $132 billion from clients in 2019. Meanwhile ESG assets under management in the EU increased 56% to $734 billion while the total number of sustainable investment funds on the continent rose to 2,405, according to Morningstar. Bloomberg

 

Finding a home

Rockford, Illinois, aims to become the first U.S. community to end homelessness. The city 90 miles outside of Chicago has worked with non-profit organization Community Solutions to create an approach that treats cases of homelessness individually, rather than adopting blanket measures to tackle the issue. There are 85 other cities in the U.S. deploying the same scheme to get to zero homelessness. Fast Company

 

At risk

MSCI has launched a new product to help investors measure their expose to climate change-related risk. The tool, Climate Value-at-Risk, provides insight on exposure to physical risks, such as flooding. According to the firm, 7% of facilities owned by constituents on the MSCI flagship equities index are threatened by coastal flooding. Asia is the most at risk, with the E.U. second and the U.S. third. MSCI

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Why insurers should cover mental health care to lower costs by Liat Jarkon

Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about paper packaging when you shop online by Mark S. Sutton

The rich own stocks, the middle class own homes. How betting it all on real estate is a wealth gap problem by Ben Carlson

The Gates Foundation is pledging up to $100 million for the fight against coronavirus by Sy Mukherjee

SCRAPBOOK

Michelin—the French tyre manufacturer that also dishes out coveted restaurant honors—has added a new symbol to its guide that honors sustainability. The so-called Green Clover is a Michelin honor that “promotes the chefs who have taken responsibility by preserving resources and embracing biodiversity, reducing food waste and reducing the consumption of non-renewable energy,” Michelin says. The award, which is represented by a five-leaf clover, debuted in the France guide last week and was awarded to 50 locations.

CLOSING NUMBER

20%

The novel coronavirus that began in Hubei, China, and has infected close to 30,000 people has caused all manner of disruption to global business. One fallout: China’s demand for crude oil has dropped 20%. The country normally consumers 14 million barrels a day—equivalent to the needs of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K., Japan, and South Korea combined. OPEC called an emergency meeting to tackle the problem.