WWF report highlights need for new deal on nature and people

Clear-cut evidence of how our current way of life is causing an accelerating decline in our natural world has been revealed in WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018. The report shows that the continually increasing human consumption is pushing the natural systems that support life on Earth to the edge. While nature provides us with the essentials of life such as the air we breathe and the water we drink, the report also highlights its economic importance − quantifying the services it provides at around US$125 trillion a year. Urgent global action is needed so WWF is seeking a new deal for nature and people, similar to the current global commitments on tackling climate change. In the coming two years, we will be working to create a global movement for change that will help set our planet on a sustainable path in the coming decade.

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New gold standard for financing a sustainable ocean economy

A new approach to ensuring investment in coastal and ocean economic development is sustainable has been launched by WWF and partners. The Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles, which demonstrate how profitability can go hand-in-hand with considering social and environmental issues, will bring sustainability into the boardrooms of all ocean-based industries. The Principles will become part of a new sustainable blue economy finance initiative to be introduced next year through the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative − a long-established partnership between the UN and the financial sector that promotes sustainable finance. “Without the guidance that the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles provide, there is a risk that poorly-directed investment could lead to unsustainable marine and coastal development, further eroding ocean health and the resource base on which our well-being depends,” said Pavan Sukhdev, President of WWF International. The principles, which were developed by WWF, the European Commission, World Resources Institute (WRI), and European Investment Bank, have already been endorsed by a growing number of financial institutions.

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New recognition for cities that protect wetlands

The important role cities can play in protecting wetlands has been highlighted in a new accreditation scheme from the global Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Eighteen cities from seven countries – China, France, Hungary, Madagascar, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Tunisia – were recognized for their efforts to promote the conservation of wetlands and showcase the benefits they offer local people. “These pioneer cities have taken exceptional steps to safeguard their urban wetlands and will inspire others towards sustainable urbanization,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention. WWF played a major role in the creation of the scheme and has also signed an agreement with one of the accredited cities, Changde in China. We will help the city to protect and restore wetlands around West Dongting Lake, itself a protected wetland since 2002. 

Read more: Ramsar announces first 18 wetland cities

Read more: WWF and Changde city to work together to protect wetlands



New report reinforces need for global climate action

WWF has long called for the increase in global temperatures to be limited to no more than 1.5 °C as a vital step towards avoiding dangerous climate change. And so we welcome a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading authority on assessing climate change, which backs this up. The report makes clear that allowing global temperatures to rise by 2°C above pre-industrial levels would be devastating for people and nature – increasing the risks of natural disaster, lower economic growth, lower food yields and increased impacts on species and habitats. Meanwhile, governments’ existing pledges under the Paris climate agreement are not enough to limit warming to 2°C, much less 1.5°C. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s global Climate and Energy Practice, said: “Governments must heed the science to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible, necessary and urgent.”

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Cambodia establishes two new wildlife sanctuaries

WWF welcomes the Cambodian government’s creation of two protected areas – the Sambo and Prasob Protected Wildlife Sanctuaries, which cover 50,093 hectares and 12,770 hectares respectively. These biodiversity-rich areas, the rivers and forests of which are vital sources of income and resources for local communities, contain some of the country’s most intact habitats. Surveys have identified a variety of wildlife including 683 plant species, 223 native fish species and 56 amphibian and reptile species, including the Cantor’s giant softshell turtle, the world largest freshwater turtle. Woolly-necked stork, white-shouldered ibis, hog deer, Eld’s deer and silvered leaf monkey are among the 15 bird and 11 large mammal species also found in the area. WWF is working with the Cambodian authorities and others to ensure the sanctuaries are managed effectively.

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Tortoise traffickers imprisoned in Madagascar

Madagascar has seen a major victory for our efforts to challenge the illegal wildlife trade that threatens many species. Three traffickers, arrested in April 2018 with 10,072 radiated tortoises, have been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and a fine of Ariary 100 million (about US$28,000) each. Damages and costs were also awarded against them. The extremely long-lived radiated tortoise is critically endangered due to habitat loss and poaching for food and the pet trade. WWF and other NGOs congratulated the Malagasy justice system for the courage and determination it has shown throughout this investigation and trial. This judgment marks a crucial step in the fight against the wildlife trafficking in Madagascar and will hopefully act as a deterrent to others. We work globally with law enforcement agencies and NGOs such as TRAFFIC to challenge both the consumers and suppliers who support this illegal business.

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Momentum grows for a New Deal for Nature and People

WWF is urging world leaders to commit by 2020 to a global plan of action to protect the planet – a plan we call the New Deal for Nature and People. So we were heartened by the commitment to nature protection at the recent annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss resort of Davos – an event that sees thousands of political and business leaders discuss the most urgent issues of the day. We helped ensure that the issues of climate change and nature loss took centre stage − and were particularly delighted by the positive response to WWF ambassador Sir David Attenborough joining HRH the Duke of Cambridge to discuss the world’s most urgent environmental challenges. WWF also hosted a well received and oversubscribed event with heads of UN agencies, governments, companies and NGOs to create broad-based support for the New Deal. Read the blog from our Director General Marco Lambertini to find out why we urgently need these global commitments by 2020.

Digital platform to track product sustainability

A revolutionary new WWF-backed digital platform, which tracks food and products from production to consumption, will help consumers and businesses avoid illegal, environmentally damaging or unethical goods. OpenSC, launched by WWF and BCG Digital Ventures, has already successfully completed a pilot to track Chilean toothfish from the deep sea to the plate. The platform enables anyone with a smartphone to find out where the fish came from, when and how it was produced, and how it journeyed along the supply chain. A digital tag is attached to products at the original point of production, with movements and other data recorded using blockchain technology that prevents data tampering. There are big opportunities to use the platform for a range of food and other products. WWF Director General Marco Lambertini said: “Unsustainable production of food and goods is a major driver of environmental damage. Now for the first time, OpenSC gives consumers the power to track their purchases from source, enabling them to demand sustainable and ethical food and other products. OpenSC is a game-changer, massively increasing transparency and accountability.”


Insurance industry action for natural World Heritage sites

Almost half of natural UNESCO World Heritage sites, which contain our planet’s most extraordinary places, are currently threatened by harmful human activities such as illegal logging, overfishing, road building and large-scale dam construction. And yet, they are vitally important to millions of people – providing them with food, water, jobs and so much more. We have been working with partners to encourage the insurance industry to take action – and are delighted to announce that a pioneering new insurance industry guide will be developed this year with leading insurers to help ensure that their risk management, insurance and investment activities do not harm these sites. Margaret Kuhlow, WWF’s Finance Practice Leader, said: “It is great to see so many major insurers from across the globe commit to help the wider industry identify how they can better protect World Heritage sites. Over 11 million people and countless species rely on these sites being properly protected; yet today many are under threat.”


Singapore takes on plastics pollution crisis

There are already more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in our oceans, with around 8 million more tonnes added each year. This deepening pollution crisis is harmful to people and nature – and we urgently need a UN agreement to end ocean plastics pollution by 2030. In advance of a global campaign in February calling for action by world leaders, WWF Singapore launched PACT (Plastic ACTion) − a coalition for business solutions to reduce plastics use. Nine Singapore food and beverage, retail and hospitality companies have already pledged to reduce their plastic production and usage by 2030. Kim Stengert, WWF Singapore’s Strategic Communication and External Relations Chief, said: “While the removal of a straw or slight reduction of plastic bags is great, these measures are just not enough to match the level of the plastic pollution crisis. PACT is a commitment to systemic change and the signees make ambitious and science-based decisions to do so.”


Court decision protects Bulgarian World Heritage site

Long-running efforts by WWF and other environmental organizations to prevent Bulgaria’s Pirin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, from being opened up to construction have paid off. In a ruling that cannot be appealed, Bulgaria's supreme administrative court overturned controversial changes to the management plan that would have opened up almost half of the park to logging and potential new construction in the Bansko ski resort. WWF launched international efforts, part of our global Shared Heritage campaign, which resulted in more than 125,000 people from all over the world signing a petition asking the Bulgarian government to protect the site. The park contains centuries-old pine forests and is a home to bears, wolves and chamois.