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EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: It’s time for a New Deal for Nature and People

Marco Lambertini

13 Nov 2018

In this important piece by the Director General of WWF International Marco Lambertini, we hear an increasingly urgent call to stop the destruction of the worlds ecosystems on which our health and prosperity depend.  We must find the way to do collectively what we know individually is the right and only thing to do.  Tim Nixon, Managing Editor, Thomson Reuters Sustainability.

Still need a reason to answer nature’s SOS? Here are over seven billion of them.

Three years ago, global leaders made a promise to present and future generations. Together, the world committed to deliver ambitious targets on poverty, health, education, economic growth and many other pillars by 2030 to create a just and cohesive society for all. And today as these efforts get underway, there is something fundamental we seem to be ignoring.

A few days ago, the latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report painted an alarming picture of the state of the planet. Global wildlife populations have declined, on average, by 60 per cent in little over 40 years largely due to threats and pressures linked to human activity. In the past 30 to 50 years, we have lost 20 percent of the Amazon, almost half of the world’s coral reefs, and 30 to 50 percent of the world’s mangroves.

Mankind is single handedly changing the face – and fate – of our ‘living planet’. And as we do so, we are failing to see that the flashing red lights of nature’s SOS are a warning sign for our own future as well.

Nature is the lifeline for the 7.6 billion people inhabiting planet Earth, providing the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. It’s the source for countless products and services including medicines and raw materials for our homes and industries. Beyond the beauty and inspiration, nature provides services worth around US$125 trillion a year.

If the world is looking for a way to ensure a sustainable future for all, protecting and restoring global nature and biodiversity is fundamental. But nature is in crisis and we continue to take it for granted as we have always done. It is time we answer nature’s SOS. Not just to secure the future of tigers, pandas, whales, bees and all the amazing diversity of life we love and cherish on Earth but because ignoring it also puts the health, well-being and prosperity of over 7 billion of us at stake.

This is why we are calling for urgent, decisive, global action to bend the curve of devastating nature loss the planet is reeling under now. As many natural systems like forests, oceans, wetlands and rivers reach their tipping point, more than 190 countries will meet under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt a few days from now. Two years before the 2020 deadline, several of the Aichi Targets remain unfulfilled by the countries that agreed to the 20 targets in Aichi, Japan in 2010; they – and we – have a chance to turn things around but the work must start now.

We have before us an unparalleled opportunity as we head into the year 2020. Two years from now, the world will review its progress on the environment and sustainable development by means of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and renew the 2030 targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity. And by this time, we must be ready to demonstrate that we have collectively and resoundingly answered nature’s SOS with a global ‘New Deal for Nature and People’, a roadmap that recognizes the intrinsic link between the health of nature, the well-being of people and the future of our planet. We need to deliver an ambitious action plan that halts the decline of nature and looks to restore much of what has been lost. And change our current wasteful and destructive development model into an environmentally sustainable one.

We can no longer afford to ignore the lifeline of more than seven billion people, and our societies and economies. If we want to leave our future generations with a truly sustainable world, we must find a way to develop and coexist with forests, rivers and oceans and ensure they are teeming with life, not plastic.

For too long, we have taken nature for granted – in our food, finance and energy systems and even culturally – and as we repeatedly fail nature, it is of little wonder that nature will eventually fail us. That would be terrible news for us and the one planet we all call home.

We have two years to work across actors, sectors and borders to seal a ‘New Deal for Nature and People’ that redefines how we value nature and ensures we safeguard biodiversity and the health of the planetary ecosystems. There is no time to lose.

On the table in the discussion rooms in Egypt are over seven billion reasons to take action for nature. The message is simple but powerful: we cannot have a healthy, prosperous future on a degraded planet. So, what are we waiting for?



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