In 2020, we have an incredible opportunity to make an ambitious global commitment to restore nature: a New Deal for Nature and People. Every one of us can help make this happen.
Nature is our life-support system. From the fresh air we breathe to the clean water we drink, nature provides the essentials we all rely on for our survival and well-being. And it also holds the key to our prosperity, with millions of livelihoods and much of our economic activity also depending on the natural world. These immense benefits to humanity, estimated to be worth around US$125 trillion a year, are only possible if we maintain a rich diversity of wildlife.
We know that we are losing nature faster than it can restore itself. And without urgent action, significant harm to people and planet is inevitable: inadequate food and water for our growing global population, significant harm to our economies, and the mass extinction of an estimated one million species.
The world is no stranger to these issues, with governments already pledging action to tackle nature loss through the UN’s global agreement on nature, the Convention on Biological Diversity. But the convention’s targets for 2020, set almost a decade ago, will in all cases not be met.
Meanwhile, the warning signs continue to mount. Populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined on average by 60 per cent in the past 40 years – and 75 per cent of land has been significantly altered by human activities.
"Science has never been clearer, awareness has never been greater. It's time for decisive action."
Marco Lambertini, WWF Director General
The New Deal seeks to protect and restore nature for the benefit of people and planet – proposing no more loss of natural spaces or extinctions as well as halving the negative ecological impacts of production and consumption. This will enable us to provide enough food and water for a global population that will grow to nine billion people in coming decades, support efforts to create a stable climate, and prevent a mass extinction of wildlife.
The first step will be to work with government leaders to ensure their support for a New Deal. This must be followed by strengthened commitments and delivery mechanisms for the UN Biodiversity Convention alongside a strengthened private-sector commitment to action – and then enormous ongoing work in the coming decade. Alongside this, we must redouble efforts to deliver current UN agreements on tackling climate change and encouraging sustainable development – the fate of the climate, human development and nature are linked together.
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Only a global coalition of the willing can make all this happen. We need combined action by governments, business, finance, individuals, civil society organisations, indigenous peoples and local communities around the world.
People must be front and centre in any New Deal, with everyone entitled to live in a healthy environment and the human rights of local communities and indigenous peoples respected. A New Deal can only be achieved in partnership with, and in the interests of, the people who share their lands with nature.
Global food production is currently the single largest driver of nature loss. A switch to sustainable production requires, on average, a more than doubling in the consumption of healthy foods and a greater than 50% reduction in global consumption of less healthy foods. Such dietary changes would prevent approximately 11 million deaths per year.
More than 75% of the leading global food crops rely on pollination by insects and other animals. Pollination increases the global value of crop production by US$235-577 billion per year to growers alone. A New Deal will help to challenge threats, such as habitat loss, currently facing pollinators.
Nature already captures 60 per cent of the carbon emissions produced each year by human activities. Natural climate solutions, which increase carbon storage in forests, grasslands, wetlands and agricultural lands, can deliver one-third of the global climate deal commitments.
The 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report, which draws on almost 15,000 references and 150 experts from 50 countries, highlighted that around 25 percent of assessed animal and plant groups are threatened. This suggests that one million species face extinction in the coming decades unless we take action.