Over 10 years, WWF teams across the globe have built Earth Hour, which started as a one-city event in Sydney in 2007, into the world’s largest environmental grassroots movement advocating action on climate change. This year, WWF mobilized an unprecedented 187 countries and territories to take a stand for climate action. More than 3,000 landmarks switched off their lights, millions of individuals, businesses, and organizations across the seven continents made their voices heard, while online #EarthHour and related terms generated more than 1.1 billion impressions, trending in at least 30 countries worldwide. In his Earth Hour message, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated the need for people to work together to build a sustainable, climate-resilient future, while Sid Das, Executive Director of Earth Hour Global, insisted “together the global community can turn this around. But we must act now”.
UNESCO World Heritage sites, which 193 nations have pledged to protect, are some of the planet’s most extraordinary natural places, home to countless endangered species. But many are at risk from mining, oil and gas extraction and large-scale infrastructure development. In 2016, WWF called on two key players to take action: UNESCO, to be more robust in protecting natural World Heritage sites from unsustainable development and to be more transparent in its decision-making; and the OECD, to strengthen its guidelines for businesses on development within the sites. WWF has now secured the robust and fair application of OECD Guidelines for Multinationals, enabling investors to be held to account – if they are in breach of the guidelines, civil society organizations can take action. This is a big win. World Heritage sites can drive sustainable development, but once they’re gone, it’s forever.
WWF has just released a video showing the Great Barrier Reef suffering mass bleaching for the second year in a row. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority confirmed the world’s longest reef is experiencing mass bleaching for the fourth time in 20 years – and back-to-back bleaching for the first time ever. Last year’s event was the worst on record, killing an estimated 22 per cent of all coral. Mass coral mortality is fast becoming a humanitarian and economic concern, and will soon be elevated to a crisis if reefs die alongside densely populated coastlines and islands whose people’s livelihoods depend on healthy reefs. “We need a major lift in action to bring down carbon emissions and scaled-up efforts to reduce local pressures on reefs so they have maximum chance of withstanding the onslaught of climate change,” said WWF-Australia’s Head of Oceans, Richard Leck.
Each 22 March, the UN’s World Water Day highlights the absolute centrality of fresh water to life on Earth, and the imperative to manage it sustainably. What better day for WWF to announce two significant partnerships. First, HSBC agreed to a three-year extension of its water programme for healthy rivers, businesses and communities – a blueprint and inspiration for what sustainable development looks like in five global river basins. Then WWF, Coca-Cola and four South Korean organizations, including the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee, agreed to a comprehensive water conservation programme for an eco-friendly 2018 Winter Olympics. The first project will protect environmental diversity and freshwater resources in the Jilmoi wetland and Samjung Lake in the Odaesan National Park.
March 2017 saw two significant successes in the war against ivory poaching. In Cameroon three smugglers were arrested when 159 elephant tusks were discovered in the boot of their car. This seizure comes at a time when elephant populations in Cameroon’s Boumba-Bek and Nki national parks have declined by up to 75 per cent, and numbers across the Congo basin have fallen by more than 60 per cent since 2002. In Tanzania, Boniface Matthew Mariango, a notorious ivory trafficker linked to 15 poaching gangs in five countries and directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of elephants, was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in jail. In Tanzania’s largest protected area, the Selous Game Reserve, rampant poaching has reduced the elephant population by 90 per cent from around 110,000 elephants 40 years ago to about 15,000 today.
Algeria’s new 15-year National Strategy for Ecosystem Management of Wetlands marks a new era in wetland conservation. Developed with financial and technical support from WWF and the United Nations Development Programme, the strategy is the culmination of a five-year process, securing the endorsement of every provincial government. While Algeria boasts 50 Ramsar sites – more than any other country in Africa – this is the first time that it has developed a comprehensive approach to the sustainable use of its diverse wetlands for the long-term benefit of people and nature. “We are excited to see the strategy finalized and look forward to its implementation,” said Denis Landenbergue, WWF International’s Wetlands Conservation Manager, adding “there is real political weight behind it, which will provide clear direction for the national and provincial governments to ensure the conservation of Algeria’s wetlands”.