Andrew Mitchell, who has 40 years’ experience in conservation and founded environmental consultancy Equilibrium Futures in 2016, is stepping up his campaign for governments and businesses to take action to stop the damage to nature that he says sparked the current crisis.
Mr Mitchell has raised his concerns with the World Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as well as sharing insights on the role of environmental crime in the crisis, with participants on a Jersey-based anti-money laundering course.
‘The speed at which the crisis developed in February and March was astounding – it was like a huge wave heading this way and then suddenly it had rolled over us,’ he said.
Although much of his focus with business has been on climate change, Mr Mitchell says the damage wrought to nature was equally important.
‘The reaction I’ve got so far is that the financial sector does not appreciate the risks of not respecting nature,’ he said. ‘But we need to pay attention to these risks, or they will come and slap us in the face.
‘What we are seeing now is the incredible power of nature to impact the global economy – that’s why I’ve called it a $10 trillion wake-up call.’
Mr Mitchell said that the damage caused to nature by activities such as deforestation, excessive fishing and over-intensive agriculture had contributed to a situation where animals like bats and pangolins were being traded in markets in China and creating a breeding ground for a virus such as Covid-19.
Having seen the impact of the 2015 establishment of a global taskforce on climate-related financial disclosure, championed by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney and ex-mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, Mr Mitchell is now seeking to set up a parallel taskforce for nature-related financial disclosure, backed by the UK Government.
‘Awareness of climate issues has moved at a dramatic and exciting pace – now I would like to move towards a position where financing involvement in the destruction of nature would become as toxic as financing an organisation that had links with child labour.’
Mr Mitchell presented his plans for the new nature taskforce to attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January and, with the United Nations Development Programme and WWF, hopes to establish a working group in June, ahead of an official launch in late 2020 or early next year.
‘Corona is an acute reminder of the consequences coming the financial sector’s way, if humanity continues to mess with nature,’ he warned.
Having been based in England for most of his career, Mr Mitchell and his wife moved back to Jersey on 1 March and are now living in Trinity.
The campaigner will be continuing his global advocacy work from his new base and hopes that Jersey will take the opportunity to become a leader in sustainable finance.