‘Golden opportunity’ for world leaders to tackle food, climate and nature crises and take action at UN General Assembly high level week, says WWF

Posted on 16 September 2021

WWF will be joining others at this event to urge leaders to take ambitious and decisive action to shift to sustainable food production systems, and deliver an equitable, net-zero and nature-positive world.

NEW YORK (September, 2021) – As world leaders gather in New York for the United Nations General Assembly high level week and UN Food Systems Summit later this month (14-30 September), WWF is anticipating major announcements including significant funding commitments to help conserve our world.

The theme of this year’s UN General Assembly high level week is Building resilience through hope to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise and it comes at the start of a critical 12 months for nature and our planet, when world leaders will make once-in-a-decade decisions on climate change, food systems and biodiversity.

Human activities are currently putting ever greater pressure on nature, undermining its ability to support us and provide healthy and nutritious food, and increasing our vulnerability to pandemics. Wildlife populations have dropped on average by a dramatic 68 per cent since 1970.

WWF will be joining others to urge leaders to take ambitious and decisive action to shift to sustainable food production systems, and deliver an equitable, net-zero and nature-positive world. 

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF-International, said:

“The evidence of the impact of human activities on the natural world has never been greater - and therefore the understanding of the consequences this is having not just on ecosystems and wildlife, but also on all our lives. Conserving nature and sustainably managing its resources and services is no longer just an emotional or moral issue - it has become an issue at the heart of development, the economy, society and health, and a question of equity as vulnerable populations are the most affected. 

“We will not overcome the challenges of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and poor health if we lose nature’s services and resources - nor will we reduce our vulnerability to pandemics or stabilise climate change. We need healthy natural systems and biodiversity.  We must change course now and this September’s UN General Assembly could put us on that path towards agreeing a nature-positive global goal, one that governments, business and consumers can embrace to finally drive sustainability in our economy and society.”

WWF has particularly high hopes about a high-profile nature event being held on the fringes of UNGA 2021. The Transformative Action for Nature and People event, held on 22 September, will feature contributions from government leaders spanning the globe, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji.

“This event is a golden opportunity for world leaders to show they are serious about addressing nature loss and actually act on the commitments they made when they signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature at last year’s high level week of the UN General Assembly, committing to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030,” said Claire Blanchard, Head of Advocacy at WWF International.

The UN Food Systems Summit, taking place on 23 September, is a key opportunity for world leaders to outline tangible global and national pathways for food systems transformation, helping them to deliver on commitments made in the Leaders’ Pledge. The summit is structured around five key “action tracks” that have far-reaching goals and provide opportunities to deliver systemic change. WWF has led the Boosting nature-positive production at scale action track, and over the past 14 months has worked to hear the voices of thousands of food producers, civil society organisations, private sector representatives and policymakers who developed solutions and formed coalitions that lay the foundations for accelerated food systems transformation.

“This being the first ever Food Systems Summit, there is a unique opportunity for world leaders to set ambitious, inclusive targets that tackle the food, climate and nature crises in an integrated way. By building on the work of the Food Systems Summit action tracks and on the dialogues that happened in more than 145 countries, clear pathways for implementation can be created and we can make significant progress towards a nature-positive, food secure, net-zero emissions future,” said Joao Campari, Global Food Practice Leader at WWF International.

“To give ourselves the best chances of success, we need to focus on specific nature-positive solutions with clear metrics: targets to define what needs to be achieved by 2030, key performance indicators to keep track of progress, and clearly defined means of implementation to guide the work of those who commit to deliver these solutions.


WWF will support world leaders and other actors in the food systems to deliver solutions including:

  • protection, sustainable management and restoration at landscape and seascape level;

  • implementation of agroecological and regenerative agricultural practices;

  • scaling up financial support for small scale farmers and fishers; 

  • supporting the private sector in implementing sustainable supply chains that are deforestation-free and conversion-free;

  • shifting to sustainable consumption patterns by aligning environmental and human health in dietary guidance and food policy; 

  • adopting ambitious goals to reduce food loss and waste by at least 50% from farm to fork.

Notes to Editors 

For further information and to schedule interviews, contact news@wwfint.org.

  • The Transformative Action for Nature and People event will be streamed live HERE at 08:00 - 10.30 EDT on 22 September. This virtual event brings together world leaders representing countries from all regions, to showcase and announce new action on nature, and set out how they have delivered on commitments since September 2020. Co-hosted by members of the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and the Global Ocean Alliance, the event will feature two live conversations. The first will feature H.E. Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica, H.E. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of the Maldives (TBC), H.E. Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan (TBC), others to be confirmed. The second live conversation will feature H.E. Iván Duque Márquez, President of Colombia, H.E. Ms. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and H.E. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (TBC). There will also be contributions from H.E. Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,  H.E.  Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, H.E. Alexander van der Bellen, President of Austria, H.E. Luis Arce Catacora, President of Bolivia, H.E. Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia, Hon. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, H.E. János Áder, President of Hungary, H.E. Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, President of Panama, Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and H.E. Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania, as well as Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, H.E. Hon Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly (TBC), H.E. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Inger Anderson, Executive Director, UN Environmental Program (UNEP) (TBC). The event will also include contributions from leaders from across society and business, including Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International; Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chat (AFPAT); Zdenka Piskulich, Managing Director, Enduring Earth; Andrew Steer, CEO, Bezos Earth Fund; James Deutsch, CEO, Rainforest Trust; and Saker Nusseibeh, CEO of International Federated Hermes on behalf of Finance for Biodiversity Pledge.

  • Also taking place on 22 September, Food is the Future is a youth-led event that will provide recommendations and youth priorities for the outcomes of the UN Food Systems Summit, taking place the following day.. The virtual event,  will assemble representatives of over 70,000 youths who have called for transformation of food systems, as well as six NGOs (WWF, GAIN, EAT, CARE, Club of Rome and ICCCAD) rallying for a sustainable, resilient and human-centred transformation of food systems that can support the creation of millions of jobs for young people while also nourishing people and planet. This virtual event will have two sessions to make it accessible to as many people around the world as possible. It will take place at 03:00 - 06:00 EDT / 09:00 - 12:00 CEST and  10:00 - 13:00 EDT / 16:00 - 19:00 CEST. Registration is open here.

  • The UN Food Systems Summit aims to bring together all UN Member States and constituents around the world – including thousands of youth, food producers, Indigenous Peoples, civil society, researchers, private sector, and the UN system – to generate tangible, positive changes to the world’s food systems, drive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and get countries back on track to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This virtual event will be streamed at 08:00 EDT on 23 September. Virtual media accreditation for the summit is open HERE. The application deadline is 20 September.  The summit action tracks are as follows:

    • Action Track 1: Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all – to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition and reduce the incidence of non-communicable disease, enabling all people to be nourished and healthy

    • Action Track 2: Shift to sustainable consumption patterns – to build consumer demand for sustainably produced food, strengthen local value chains, improve nutrition, and promote the reuse and recycling of food

    • Action Track 3: Boost nature-positive production – to deliver the fundamental human right to healthy and nutritious food, within planetary boundaries

    • Action Track 4: Advance equitable livelihoods – to promote full and productive employment and decent work for all actors along the food value chain, ensuring food systems leave no one behind

    • Action Track 5: Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses – to help people everywhere participate in food systems that, despite shocks and stressors, deliver food security, nutrition and equitable livelihoods for all

  • The Leaders Pledge for Nature is a commitment to reverse biodiversity loss by the end of the decade which was launched at the UN General Assembly in 2020. The pledge is a direct response to the need for urgent and immediate global action to address our interdependent biodiversity, climate and health crises. It has so far been endorsed by 89 world leaders, including six G7 countries, 8 G20 countries and several of the world’s top biodiversity-rich countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Colombia and Costa Rica, and supported by more than 80 organisations, including WWF, the World Health Organization, Conservation International, BirdLife International. Leaders have committed to review their progress and reaffirm their commitments to the pledge at the High Level Event on 22 September. 

French President Emmanuel Macron at the UN General Assembly.
French President Emmanuel Macron at the UN General Assembly.
© UN Photo / Kim Haughton