Director General, WWF International, Marco Lambertini, in an interview on the sidelines of the recently held Second Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (WG2020-2) in Rome insists that, in keeping with the dictates of science, mankind needs to stop losing nature by 2030, and that the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) should endorse a clear, sharp and measurable biodiversity mission akin to the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement
What is your impression of the ongoing negotiations as well as the state of biodiversity?
We are on one hand very worried because the science has never been clearer than today in highlighting the fact that we are losing nature – and by nature, I mean habitats, species and populations – at a rate which is unprecedented in the history of our civilisation but also unprecedented for the whole planet because it is the first time that the activities of one species are driving extinction and the loss of natural habitat across the globe. So, we’re very worried.
The good news and the bad news is that we understand that there is a growing awareness that what we are doing to the climate and what we are doing to biodiversity is not just something that is irresponsible from a moral perspective, but it is actually dangerous for our own future.
We know that we depend on nature a lot for our activities, economy, wellbeing and health; and so by undermining nature, we are undermining the foundation of our own sustainable future.
What is your organisation’s strategy towards addressing global biodiversity loss?
As a general point, our strategy from the very beginning has always been engagement; engagement in the support and how to find solutions – concrete solutions – to the problems. Sometimes, we are criticised for working closely with companies, with governments, but we believe that we are able to maintain the right balance between being critical, but also being helpful.
I think that’s the balance that we’re trying all the time to strike. We want to engage through business support chain within the system as much as we engage with governments to change the policies and legislations, for example. So, we believe in working together towards a common solution and hopefully finding win-win solutions. Solutions that are good for the environment, economy and for the society.
That’s the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals framework. It’s not anymore environment against the economy; its about the economy, society, and the environment coming together – that’s the challenge. But that’s also to a greater opportunity.
What is the nature of the WWF focus on Africa as a continent, considering its uniqueness and rich biological diversity?
We are present in about 15 countries in Africa, and I’m very proud to say that, since many years, our leadership in Africa is African and this is actually a very clear policy. We are led by local leaders in all these countries, and so in that sense we believe that our organisation in Africa understands Africans, understands African challenges and opportunities.
The strategy in Africa is as said earlier – Africa is unique, not just in terms of biodiversity as you mentioned but it is also unique because you are facing a major development opportunity and challenge perhaps more than other continents. And so actually Africa is really an exciting example on how you could learn from all the mistakes made in other continents before and develop sustainably in respect of the environment.
The biggest challenge clearly is agriculture and infrastructure – those are the two areas of challenge because there is need for more food, there is need for better infrastructure and we can find a way to do that without destroying the environment. So, we are very focused on food production and agriculture, infrastructure as two areas of major engagement with governments and with business and with communities.
What is the WWF’s level of interaction with sister organisations such as the International Union of Conservation (IUCN), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), among others?
IUCN is an umbrella organisation that brings many other NGOs together and they provide a lot of technical advice and we’re using that advice a lot; as well many of IUCN indicators such as those are threatened species, etc.
And with others like the WCS; we coordinate more on the ground – we’re very much on the ground – on specific projects and community engagements and so on.
Let’s talk about migratory birds, a major nature conservation topic close to our heart. Is that same with you sir?
Birds are an interesting symbol of connectivity because migratory birds are using different countries, different habitats – and so their life cycle depends on the integrity of these different elements coming together. And the decline of migratory birds is yet another indicator of how all the impact we are having on the planet.
For migratory birds, there are two things that we need to do. One is to protect the sites they use during the day and the other one is to reduce the unsustainable use of nature, which is a major source of decline as well.
How optimistic or pessimistic are you towards Kunming where the biodiversity framework is expected to be adopted in October 2020?
I am optimistic that we will get in Kunming something better than what we’ve gotten until now; there would be progress – I’m pretty sure about that. The question is whether the progress that we are making in Kunming is adequate towards what science is asking us to do.
So, there would be progress but we’re pushing for the progress to be really meeting the science request, which is telling us that, by 2030 which is just 10 years away, we have got to stop losing nature, habitat and species at the rate that we are doing presently.
We are asking the CBD to endorse a mission that is clear and sharp and measurable like the one we have for climate. For climate, we’re clear – we need to become carbon neutral by 2050, and halve emissions by 2030.
Which is equivalent for nature? Right now, we don’t have a clarity for nature, which is not that difficult because science is telling us that, by 2030, we need to stop losing nature and begin to restore. So, we say that the CBD should be the mission that is alongside carbon neutrality is about nature-positive.
So, by 2030, we need to stop losing nature and begin to restore it and simple metrics like habitat coverage species, populations and land threatened list could measure that positive outcome. So, society, future carbon neutral nature-positive, that has to get into the heads of all the corporate leaders and government leaders – that’s where the society needs to go or else we will find ourselves in big trouble.