U.S. Sits out as World Leaders Pledge $8 Billion to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine
World leaders met in a virtual summit on Monday and pledged $8 billion to ramp up efforts to find a vaccine and treatments for the novel coronavirus, but the U.S. was noticeably absent from the summit, as The Washington Post reported.
The European Union-organized fundraiser brought together leaders from around the world, including Japan, Canada, Australia and Norway, to fund laboratories that have shown some promise in developing a vaccine. There were pledges from prime ministers, presidents, a king and even the pop star Madonna. The Trump administration said it is already spending billions for research in the U.S., according to The New York Times.
The administration's disinterest in international cooperation has alarmed global health officials and diplomats seeking a worldwide effort to end the pandemic that has crippled global markets and killed more than 250,000 people. The concerns are growing that President Trump has squabbled with China over the origin of the disease and cut off U.S. support to the World Health Organization, as POLITICO reported.
"The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed," said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the conference, according to The Washington Post. "The race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries but the most urgent shared endeavor of our lifetimes."
Last month, Johnson was rushed to an intensive care unit as he suffered from COVID-19 symptoms.
The various leaders on the call pledged as much as they could and took a few moments to boast of their efforts to stop the pandemic. There was a wide range of pledges from Romania, which pledged $200,000, to Canada's $850 million pledge. The two largest donations were from the European Union and Norway. They both pledged $1.1 billion, or 1 billion euros, as The New York Times reported.
Just as wealthier nations are buying up ventilators, tests, and personal protective equipment, leaving poorer countries woefully underprepared for a health crisis, the U.S. strategy of not participating in international efforts raises concerns that a vaccine will be hoarded by a wealthy nation.
"The worst situation would be, if when these tools are available, they go to the highest bidder — that would be terrible for the world," said Melinda Gates, who, along with husband, Bill, has devoted billions to health research, as POLITICO reported. "Covid-19 anywhere is Covid-19 everywhere. And that's why it's got to take global cooperation."
"It's the first time that I can think of where you have had a major international pledging conference for a global crisis of this kind of importance, and the U.S. is just absent," said Jeremy Konyndyk, who worked on the Ebola response in the Obama administration, as The Washington Post reported.
He added that since nobody knows which research arm will succeed in a vaccine, it's crucial to back multiple simultaneous efforts.
"Against that kind of uncertainty we should be trying to position ourselves to be supporting — and potentially benefiting from — all of them," said Konyndyk to The Washington Post. "And instead we seem to be just focused on trying to win the race, in the hopes we happen to get one of the successful ones."
The Trump administration declined to explain why they would not take part in the global effort, but they did look to boast about their own efforts to support vaccine research worldwide, including $2.6 billion through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an arm of the Health and Human Services Department. Jim Richardson, the State Department's director of foreign assistance, added that American companies had also provided $7 billion toward a coronavirus vaccine and treatment, according to The New York Times.
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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