Creating a new global pact for nature
2020 may seem a way off – but it’s going to be a vital year for the future of people and nature. A year when global leaders will get the opportunity to reset key global targets on protecting our planet. These include the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were agreed by 193 governments in 2015 and contain targets that aim to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”. This month, we presented case studies to the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) – a body which reviews the progress on the SDGs – to promote the integrated implementation of SDGs at a national level. This means ensuring that development takes account of social, environmental and economic factors in a balanced way. Although we believe the most recent declaration by the HLPF is too limited, we still remain positive that a new global pact for nature in 2020 can be achieved.
Millions of hectares of Colombian tropical rainforest protected
Serranía de Chiribiquete National Park, in the Colombian Amazon, is now the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park, after being extended by more than a third to cover 4.3 million hectares. At the same time, the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The announcement marks the culmination of efforts by organizations and environmental authorities, including WWF. The park is home to indigenous groups, some of whom remained uncontacted by the outside world – and to thousands of species, dozens of them endemic and several threatened, including the lowland tapir, giant otter, the giant anteater and the woolly monkey. Covering areas with the highest deforestation rates in Colombia, Chiribiquete’s expansion will work as a barrier against deforestation in the Amazon, and also help to protect the territory from fires and illicit crop cultivation. “This is a defining moment for the protection of key ecosystems in Colombia,” says Mary Lou Higgins, Director, WWF-Colombia.
World’s insurers commit toprotect World Heritage sites
World Heritage status protects more than 1,000 sites of unparalleled natural and cultural importance, including the Galápagos and the Great Barrier Reef. Now, the first global insurance industry commitment to protecting World Heritage sites has been launched by UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative – the largest collaboration between the UN and the insurance industry – in partnership with WWF and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. This covers the insurance industry’s risk management, insurance and investment activities and commits signatories to take various actions in order to prevent or reduce the risk of insuring and investing in companies or projects whose activities could damage World Heritage sites. The 209 natural World Heritage sites provide vital resources such as food, fuel and water, deliver environmental services such as flood prevention, and contribute significantly to local economies in many ways. Yet, almost half these sites are threatened by harmful activities such as oil and gas exploration, illegal logging, overfishing and infrastructure development (pictured is the Belize Barrier Reef).
Welcome court judgement for Bulgarian national park
WWF and other NGOs have won a joint court action against Bulgarian government plans to open Pirin National Park to construction. Proposed changes to the park’s management plan would have allowed development in almost half the park – a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983 and Bulgaria’s premier protected area which is home to bears, chamois, wolves and ancient pine forests. The Supreme Administrative Court has now ruled against the construction of new ski runs and nearby infrastructure in Pirin and found the government has not properly applied national laws intended to implement EU directives on protecting habitats and ensuring environmental issues are considered when planning development. “This is great news and means the government must now ensure that all threats to Pirin, one of Europe’s most special places, are assessed and avoided,” said WWF-Bulgaria conservation expert Katerina Rakovska.
Voluntary krill no-fishing zones in Antarctica
WWF has welcomed the announcement of a voluntary krill fishery closure along the Antarctic Peninsula by the five companies that make up the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting companies. Annually, around 250,000 tonnes of Antarctic krill are caught, used for aquaculture and poultry feed, as omega-3 health supplements, in pet food, and in medicine. But krill is also a vital food source for species in the region such as baleen whales, penguins, seals and seabirds. WWF, which worked with other conservation organizations to secure this commitment, says more still needs to be done. “A comprehensive and effective network of marine protected areas surrounding the continent – which must include no-take marine sanctuaries – is essential for safeguarding biodiversity and improving sustainable fisheries,” said Chris Johnson, Senior Manager of WWF’s Antarctic Program. WWF wants to ensure that 30 per cent of the Southern Ocean is protected by 2030.
Two Persian leopards released in North Ossetia
Back in 2005, WWF and the Russian Academy of Science developed a long-term programme to reintroduce Persian leopards to the Caucasus. Once the leopards roamed the area’s mountains, but by the 1950s their numbers had fallen dramatically and in many places were extinct. The first three leopards were reintroduced to the Caucasus in 2016, and now a pair of two-year-olds, bred in the Sochi National Park, have been released in North Ossetia’s Alaniya National Park. Our target is to have 13 leopards in the region by 2022 but we also have a global determination to preserve other big cats. For example, we are supporting the commitment by 13 tiger-range countries to double wild tiger numbers by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger. To mark this year’s Global Tiger Day (29 July), we invited people to follow the life stories of wild tigers and share their story with #connect2tigers.