The world needs an ambitious New Deal for Nature & People

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International

6 min readJul 1, 2019


© James Morgan / WWF-UK

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. The loss of nature threatens these essentials. Loss of biodiversity is therefore not only an environmental issue, but also a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue. It affects us all and all aspects of our lives.

Yet, worryingly, a series of recent major intergovernmental scientific reports which will inform policy making all over the world from the IPCC, IPBES and others have issued a siren warning: Our natural world is now under unprecedented pressure. At the current rate of nature loss, we stand to face the extinction of an estimated 1 million species within decades and significant declines of food and water supplies and many other services that nature provides to us everyday, for free.

This is supported by WWF’s Living Planet 2018 report, which has found population sizes of wildlife decreased by 60% on average globally between 1970 and 2014.

Reversing the loss of nature also holds the key to our prosperity, and it is the only way to secure livelihoods and the vast majority of our economic activity that is dependent on the natural world. These immense benefits to humanity are estimated to be worth around US$125 trillion a year and are only possible if we maintain a diversity of ecosystems and species, and enough spaces in a natural state.

2020 provides a momentous opportunity. It is truly a ‘super year’ for the environmental and sustainable development agenda. World leaders will take a series of global decisions that will set the direction for much of our planet’s future. During the year an agreement on a new global biodiversity framework, action on climate change, a treaty for the oceans and a renewed commitment to the environment under the UN’s sustainable development goals will be negotiated.

Success will be reflected in clear and strong decisions by the leaders of countries, by 2020, supported by all stakeholders and key players from business, civil society, and indigenous groups around three main dimensions.

  1. A new narrative that positions healthy, diverse and functional natural systems as the necessary foundation for social and economic development, stability and security, as well as individual wellbeing.
  2. A strong commitment around clear, communicable, measurable and science based global targets to protect & restore nature by 2030.
  3. A clear implementation mechanism similar to the national determined contributions of the Paris agreement, through a common but differentiated approach.

This should be clearly presented in support of the 2030 UN sustainable development goals, the blueprint agreed by the whole world to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, and the Paris Agreement uniting all the world’s nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change.

© Julie Pudlowski / WWF

This is going to be ‘our species plan’ to navigate the challenges of our age, the age of the humans, the Anthropocene. An era where our civilization is facing a challenge never experienced before, the increasingly unsustainable use of the Planet’s natural resources leading key natural systems like climate, ocean, forests, river basins to fast approach dangerous tipping points, and a massive loss of the biodiversity that supports the functioning of these ecosystems, loss referred to as the sixth mass extinction ever experienced since life appeared on Earth.

The plan we urgently need is clear:

  1. we must safeguard our planet’s remaining natural spaces
  2. stop the loss of species and decline of wildlife populations whilst protecting the diversity of life
  3. make our consumption and production model sustainable

A 2020 deal has to show a new and higher level of ambition — to bend the curve and restore nature for the prosperity, security, stability and well being of humanity. To do this it’s crucial we have targets that address both the need for high level conservation efforts and also the actions needed to tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss.

What could such ambitious targets look like?

An integrated, holistic set of targets are needed, that are informed by science, inspire governments to act, and protect natural spaces, drive sustainability, and prevent the loss of species. WWF proposes that, within a decade:

  1. Zero loss of natural spaces, ensuring that 50% of the planet is effectively protected, restored and sustainably managed in a natural state..This can include 30% of all terrestrial, freshwater and marine areas under effective and equitable protection and conservation, and 20% sustainably managed. In all cases, the rights and role of indigenous and local communities will be key in achieving this goal, ensuring that nature thrives for the benefit of all humanity
  2. Zero extinction and ensuring that wildlife populations are stable or increasing. In addition to protecting their habitats and taking away the pressures of unsustainable production, concerted efforts must be made to prevent poaching, and to halt the introduction of invasive alien species.
  3. Halve the negative ecological impacts of production and consumption with country level responsibility. The private sector and many governments have already identified numerous ways to reduce the negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, food production, loss & waste, freshwater stress, and raw material consumption while still meeting the important needs of people. It is time to embrace these solutions at the scale needed tackling the main sectors responsible for biodiversity and nature loss: agriculture, fishing, forestry, extractives and infrastructure.

In summarizing up a set of targets such as those suggested above, it is vital that a convergence and consensus emerges. To that end, we very much welcome the views and ideas of others, and see WWF as one voice among many in this conversation.

© Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom for WWF

Identifying ambitious new targets is crucial but it is not enough on its own. A new and strengthened implementation mechanism for ensuring targets are met is also critical, adopting the approach already agreed upon for the Paris Agreement. Individual governments must develop and implement their own ambitious national action plans to contribute to these targets, and then report back to the CBD on their progress on a regular basis. This then enables all governments to work together to identify global implementation gaps and encourage governments to increase their ambition where necessary until the collective effort is aligned to the ambitious targets. A movement of non state actors working in unison with governments, in particular the private sector, can provide an outsized contribution towards implementation.

Protecting and restoring nature is a huge challenge and no single actor can achieve this alone. It will take a broad coalition across governments, business, finance, civil society organisations, individuals, indigenous peoples and local communities around the world committing to work together on finding and driving the solutions in an equitable way.

We are facing the need for a deep transformation in our relationship with the planet. We know the problems and what it takes to fix them. This is a huge challenge as well as an unmissable opportunity.

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International

Rebecca Shaw, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at World Wildlife Fund

Lin Li, Director of Global Policy and Advocacy, WWF International




Building a future in which people live in harmony with nature.