i

Snow leopards in the wild

Credit: WWF

World leaders must act on the nature and climate emergency in 2020

22 January 2020

2020 is a crucial year for climate and the environment.

We all depend on the natural world, so it’s an important year for us too. It’s a time for important actions and decisions that will impact generations to come.

As part of addressing the climate emergency, we need to stop destroying our precious environment and start restoring nature so it can keep providing us with essentials, such as food, timber, water and clean air. Otherwise we risk losing the life support system offered by our shared home.

To do this, we must reverse the loss of nature by 2030 and restore it to more sustainable levels by 2050. We need world leaders to do the right thing and jointly address the nature and climate crises in 2020. We must make sure they act and are held to account.


Stay up-to-date with all the latest from the international development sector

 

 


We’ve succeeded in getting important decisions agreed on environmental issues before, such as the Paris climate change agreement in 2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals being agreed at the UN. So, we can do it again.

Why is 2020 different to any other year?

Time is running out. We’re losing biodiversity, which means we’re losing wildlife and nature. In my lifetime, we’ve lost two thirds of global wildlife populations and carbon emissions have risen by 90%. We need to pull our planet back from the brink of collapse. I call 2020 the "super year" because for nature, and therefore for us humans, this is the year it could all change. There are two significant reasons why 2020 matters:

  1. If we want to reverse the trend of nature loss and halve emissions by 2030, we need urgent action in 2020, starting with drastic cuts to emissions from energy and transport. When it comes to nature restoration, it will take some time to turn this ship around. We need to start now to restore nature so that people and wildlife can thrive now and in the future. And we need everybody – individuals, citizens, governments, businesses, mayors, everybody – to step up in 2020 and take urgent action to protect and restore nature, before it’s too late.
  2. 2020 is also the year of important global moments for the environment, including the Nature Conference of the Parties (COP) in Kunming, China, and the Climate COP in Glasgow, UK. And if we manage to push decision-makers to achieve positive results in all those meetings, we will help create a more sustainable future.

5 global opportunities for nature, climate and people

We’ve identified five moments that we call the “high five for nature”:

  • The 75th birthday of the UN, which is celebrated during the opening of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2020 in New York, as well as the UN Biodiversity Summit taking place at the same time. These will provide prime opportunities for world leaders to declare a planetary emergency to show that it is no longer acceptable to continue to degrade our planet and that urgent action to restore nature starts now.
  • The UN is deciding on a new 10-year framework for biodiversity under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) in October 2020 in Kunming. These goals and targets need to aim at reversing the catastrophic loss of nature by 2030 and come with an implementation mechanism that ensures ambitious action on the ground.
  • At the 26th Conference of Parties (COP-26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow in November 2020, countries will have the opportunity to enhance their national action plans to ensure that the goals of the Paris Agreement are achieved. Currently, country plans do not add up to keeping global warming below 1.5°, which is tantamount to avoiding catastrophic change. So, we need more ambitious plans that also recognise the critical contributions from restoring natural systems and other nature-based solutions.
  • Some of the environmental targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will “mature” in 2020. At the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2020 in New York, countries need to extend them meaningfully up until 2030, the overall deadline of the SDGs. Countries also need to recognise that achievement of the SDGs will depend on successfully restoring natural systems and addressing climate change.
  • Roughly 60% of the ocean lies in areas beyond national jurisdiction. At the UN Negotiations on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) taking place in New York, a UN treaty on governance of the High Seas will be agreed in early 2020 for the first time ever. This is a pivotal moment to stop ocean degradation and help to protect and restore our ocean.

These global outcomes on nature, climate and people in 2020 jointly make up a New Deal for Nature and People, which aims to reverse the catastrophic trend of nature loss and global heating.

There is no time to lose. We’ve got a lot to do, but I know we can do it. Find out more about this unmissable opportunity for the world to change direction in 2020.

About the author

Bernadette Fischler.
WWF

Bernadette Fischler Hooper is the head of international advocacy at WWF UK.