We live in times of planetary crisis and opportunity: our biggest chance to course-correct is now and a robust and inclusive global biodiversity framework is key

Many governments and companies have committed to ambitious action to tackle nature loss, but we have yet to see this translate into the global biodiversity framework negotiations. The environmental crisis is also a humanitarian crisis, so a robust and inclusive framework is our best chance to secure a safer and better future for all; writes Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, an IUCN Member organisation.

Planting can be one way to restore ecosystems

Opinions expressed in posts featured on the Crossroads blog and in related comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect opinions of IUCN or a consensus of its Member organisations.

We all know the frightening environmental crisis our planet is facing. We also know that our development model is the cause. And we are beginning to understand the terrible impacts this is having on our lives, undermining social and economic progress, and even advances already made. Never has it been clearer that we need to transform what is perhaps the most crucial of our relationships: the one with nature. 

Whether you are taking a biocentric or anthropocentric view of the world, it is clear that without healthy ecosystems both human and non-human life will be in jeopardy. We must act now to halt and reverse nature-loss and stabilise the climate to avoid dangerous consequences for the future of humanity, and all life on the planet. An ecological crisis is also a humanitarian crisis, exacerbating inequality and affecting the most vulnerable first and most severely.  

An ecological crisis is also a humanitarian crisis. We must act now to halt and reverse nature-loss and stabilise the climate to avoid dangerous consequences for the future of humanity

Evidence of our dependency on thriving nature has never been greater. Over half of global GDP is dependent on nature. A suite of ground-breaking reports have highlighted risks for food security and human health associated with nature loss and climate change. As a consequence, environment-related risks – including inaction to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss – are seen as the biggest challenges facing humanity, and growing in scale, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2021

A report produced by Ipsos MORI for the Global Commons Alliance showed that three in four people (73%) in G20 countries agree that Earth is approaching potentially abrupt or irreversible tipping points because of human action. The recent “Eco-Wakening” report by the Economist Intelligence Unit for WWF also showed a dramatic rise in numbers of people concerned about nature loss and an undeniable shift in behaviour in response to the planetary crisis, with the most dramatic growth in concern in emerging and developing economies.

Nature and climate have never been higher on the political and corporate agendas. To date a staggering 89 Heads of State have signed the Leaders' Pledge for Nature committing to reverse nature loss by 2030, and the G7 recently launched a 2030 Nature Compact; declaring that the world must achieve both net-zero emission targets and become nature-positive.

The science has never been clearer on the severity of the crisis; awareness across society has never been greater of the risks posed; and political and corporate commitment has never been more ambitious - but we know that the most difficult transformation is still to happen.

Evidence and awareness have not yet translated into the necessary ambition and action. Current commitments across state and non-state actors are still falling far too short. 

Firstly, we need a deep cultural shift in the way we see nature, relate to its incredible diversity, co-exist with it and utilise its resources and services. This requires us to: move away from granting ourselves unconditional rights to exploit and dominate nature; stop taking nature for granted; recognise its intrinsic and material values; abandon the illusion that we can have a planet run by humans and for humans only, without consequences.    

Secondly, a systemic shift; from the way we run our economies, consume and produce energy, food (from land and ocean), timber and minerals, to the way we balance production and protection at landscape level. 

Biodiversity loss and climate change are two crises that mutually reinforce each other, and neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together. That's why more and more institutions are advocating for an integrated approach: a whole-of-society, integrated, rights-based approach that spurs all sectors and governments into urgent and transformative action; an approach wherein indigenous peoples and local communities, who more directly interface with nature and depend on nature’s resources, receive appropriate recognition, rights, and benefits for their contributions to conservation. 

With the recent announcement that COP15 is being split into two parts with negotiations concluding in 2022, it is essential that countries use the extra time well. 

Whilst many governments and companies have committed to ambitious action on nature we are yet to see that ambition and urgency translate into the UN Convention on Biological Diversity negotiations, or COVID-19 recovery plans. With the recent announcement that COP15 is being split into two parts with negotiations concluding in 2022, it is essential that countries use the extra time well. 

We must not fail at this crucial moment in history. We must agree and act now to secure a nature-positive world by 2030 so that there is more nature in 2030 than there is today. This is a disruptive and ambitious goal that will force us to: protect more nature left on the planet, transform the way we consume and produce, redirect financial flows towards net-zero emissions and nature-positive economic transitions.

We must deliver on our commitment to halve global emissions by 2030 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, and to help communities, species and ecosystems to adapt and build resilience to climate impacts. We need a world that can provide everyone with a healthy and sustainable diet within planetary boundaries by 2030.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress is an important opportunity for the conservation community to come together to call for nature-positive ambition. The post-2020 global biodiversity framework must be strengthened and should notably include:

  • A clear, measurable and unifying global goal or mission on reversing biodiversity loss to achieve a nature-positive world by 2030;
  • Improved conservation action, including through a 30% by 2030 target and by recognising and securing indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ land and water rights, to achieve zero human-induced extinctions from 2021 and increase the areas, connectivity and integrity of ecosystems;
  • Bold action to address unsustainable production and consumption, and ensure they are within planetary boundaries, through ambitious and transformative targets addressing direct and indirect economic drivers of biodiversity loss focusing on high impact productive sectors (agriculture, fishing, forestry, extractives, infrastructures) to halve the footprint of production and consumption by 2030;
  • A robust implementation mechanism, coupled with adequate resources and all should be based on a sustainable, rights-based approach.

As the impacts of climate change become clear, small fires can quickly burn out of control

As the impacts of climate change become clear, small fires can quickly burn out of control 

Photo: Andre Dib/WWF-Brazil

The Congress is an unmissable opportunity to move forwards. We must agree on a clear and ambitious motion related to the global biodiversity framework: our great chance to embrace a clear and transformative plan for nature. It must include a clear call for a nature-positive mission and global goal, a footprint milestone, and ambitious targets. And it must be inclusive. Any global conservation efforts including calls to protect and conserve at least 30% of the world’s land, freshwater and oceans by 2030, hinge on the strong participation and leadership of indigenous peoples and local communities and will be unattainable without them.

Global conservation efforts hinge on the strong participation and leadership of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Friends, colleagues, now is the crucial time that we must redouble our efforts, work together, listen deeply, find solutions and common ground. We must coalesce and move forward as a united voice around the issues that will deliver a robust global biodiversity framework that sets us on the path to reversing nature loss by 2030, avoiding future pandemics, and building back better.

It is also time for the nature, humanitarian and development community to unite and join forces for change. We finally understand that the challenges, which until recently seemed different, are actually part of the same super-challenge: to preserve the health and habitability of the planet - our only home.

We are at a crucial fork in our journey as a civilisation. The difference between the two directions is crystal clear. The choice is ours. In times of great crisis, there are also great opportunities. These times of fear for the future can turn into the most powerful agents of change, giving space to excitement and action. Now it is our biggest chance to course-correct towards a safer and better future for all.

Climate change
Sustainable development

Marco Lambertini is the Director General of WWF International, an IUCN Member organisation. He first worked with WWF in Italy as a youth volunteer and now leads the global conservation organisation, working with world leaders, corporate executives, and civil society to forge a future in which people and nature thrive. Prior to WWF, he was Chief Executive of BirdLife International. Marco sits on the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, is a Board Member of the UN Global Compact, and an international ambassador of the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU). He was a founding member of the Nature Action Agenda and Friends of Ocean Action of the World Economic Forum, the Business for Nature Coalition, and the Global Commons Alliance. He has a degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and is a published author.


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