Review of the year: WWF successes from 2023

Posted on 18 December 2023

The High Seas Treaty provides the mechanisms for creating high-seas marine protected areas

2023 has been a difficult year for many people around the world. Conflict and instability still blight the lives of millions. Sadly, too, the deepening and accelerating loss of nature and the climate crisis have baked in harmful impacts for generations to come. 

Hope is desperately needed in these dark times: to break the growing spiral of despair, and inspire action towards a new and sustainable way of living.

Here at WWF, we offer a vision of repair not despair. Of working together to restore our natural world so that planet Earth is once again a safe haven for life in all its wondrous forms – including, of course, human beings. 

In 2023, we stepped up the pace to build on last year’s landmark global commitment (the UN Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework) to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030, as well as support other UN targets on stabilizing the climate and sustainable development.

Much more still needs to be done but please read on to see some of the hard-won progress we achieved alongside others in the past 12 months.

High seas success

A groundbreaking UN treaty was agreed in 2023 to conserve marine life and control harmful activities on the high seas – the vast areas of ocean that lie outside the control of any country, 99% of which are unprotected.

The new treaty will make it possible to establish marine protected areas in these international waters, already hard hit by unsustainable industrial fishing, shipping and more.

After working for this over nearly two decades, our focus now switches to supporting the establishment of protected areas that will help safeguard vulnerable wildlife such as whales and dolphins. 

Landmark EU deforestation law

Here’s a real boost for threatened forests around the world! After years of campaigning by WWF and others, the EU deforestation regulation was adopted in 2023.

This is a genuine first of its kind: groundbreaking new rules that make it illegal for companies to place products on the EU market linked with deforestation.

As always, achieving this was a group effort, with hundreds of NGOs and 1.2 million people backing our #Together4Forests campaign for a tough new law.

We’ll be working to make sure this is properly enforced by EU member states, that it works on the ground in deforestation hotspots, and that other ecosystems beyond forests are included in the next revision.

Speaking up for human rights

Campaigning by a coalition of hundreds of civil society groups, including WWF, finally paid off last year when 193 UN member states recognized the universal right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

The 2023 UN Human Rights Prize has since been awarded to the coalition in recognition of their efforts, an inspiration for individuals and communities around the world who are striving to restore nature.

Already, young people across several countries have successfully taken their governments to court for failing to protect their right to a healthy environment.

River dolphin commitment by 11 states

All six remaining species of river dolphin are facing extinction

All six species of river dolphin are faced with extinction – but it’s totally not too late to turn things round. In 2023 we saw the first ever Global Declaration for River Dolphins.

Driven by WWF, this historic agreement was signed by 11 countries from Asia and South America, committing them to take urgent measures to safeguard their river dolphins and make the great rivers where they live healthier – including the Amazon, Ganges, Indus, Mahakam and Mekong.

This will also benefit countless other species and hundreds of millions of people living in these river basins.

Wildlife can thrive

River dolphins are not the only species where there has been progress in 2023.

Although the threat to wildlife worldwide is still a huge challenge, our work with partners includes helping elephant numbers to remain stable in the Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) landscape in Southern Africa while the overall number of rhinos in Africa increased by 5.2% in a year.

There have also been new protection measures that we pushed hard for: for example, around 90% of shark and ray species now can’t be traded internationally if this threatens their survival. 

Earth Hour inspires more action

Millions celebrated WWF's Earth Hour
Making sure more people are aware of the crisis facing nature and join our efforts to protect the planet is critical in helping to meet the global 2030 goals.

So, we decided to develop WWF’s widely successful Earth Hour movement (now in its 17th year) even further, by inviting people across the globe to “give an hour for Earth” – doing something positive for the planet for 60 minutes.

In addition to landmarks switching off lights across the globe, individuals from more than 190 countries and territories pledged an incredible 410,000+ hours via our online Hour Bank.

That’s 46 years’ worth of doing good!