NEW YORK (Sept. 16, 2019) – The UN Climate Action Summit on Monday, September 23rd is intended to mobilize a collective leap in political ambition for the climate action needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Summit is timed to provide a one-year lead in to the submission of enhanced NDCs by 2020, and will showcase commitments by countries, companies, cities and civil society along six themes: Nature-Based Solutions, Finance, Energy Transition, Industry Transition, and Cities and Local Action.

WCS is advocating for nature-based solutions, which provide at least a third of the action needed by 2030 to keep global temperature rise below 2°C. Intact forests, many of which are located in High Forest Low Deforestation (HFLD) regions and countries, are an irreplaceable part of this effort, holding immense and unique value for both the climate and the biosphere, while supporting important co-benefits and social, economic and environmental outcomes.

Caleb McClennen, Vice President of Global Conservation, is available for comment/interview in advance and during the meeting. Interviews can also be arranged through Mary Dixon, WCS Senior Vice President of Communications:; or text through WhatsApp: +1-347-840-1242

At the UN Climate Summit: WCS’s President and CEO Cristián Samper will be attending to support the manifesto on nature based solutions and is available for interview

Nature’s Climate Hub: Sept. 22-25

To celebrate and endorse nature’s role as a climate solution and its intrinsic value providing a third of the climate solution by 2030, WCS is working with the Nature4Climate coalition and our Forests for Life Partnership partners to present Nature’s Climate Hub – four days of programming beginning on Sunday, Sept. 22nd to showcase nature-based solutions in policy, in practice, and in communities as they relate to forests, soils, food and agriculture, freshwater, ocean and marine ecosystems and wildlife. There will be a series of lively ‘big idea’ talks showcasing the best of nature-based solutions; interactive sessions tackling the challenges we face – and opportunities to meet and discuss with the experts. 

Key events at the Hub include:

5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica—a regional initiative for climate, biodiversity and sustainable development, Sunday, Sept 22, 9-10 am, Convene (101 Park Ave)

The eight countries of the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD) (Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic) will launch a joint initiative that commits to take direct action to conserve the 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica: the Maya Forest between Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, La Moskitia between Honduras and Nicaragua, Indio Maíz-Tortuguero between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, Talamanca between Costa Rica and Panama, and the Darién that extends from Panama to Colombia. In the event, the countries of the CCAD will make specific commitments to take direct conservation actions, donors/funders will identify commitments that are worth investing in, and civil society, Indigenous Peoples, private sector and other stakeholders will be engaged in implementation of the initiative. The initiative will: 1. Address the drivers of deforestation - especially illegal cattle ranching, 2. Improve forest governance by strengthening management of protected areas, community forests, and indigenous territories; and 3. Improve livelihoods with forest-friendly and climate resilient economic alternatives.

Trouble below the canopy: the climate costs of unseen forest degradation, Sept. 22, 11:30-12:30, Convene (101 Park Ave)

When it comes to storing carbon, the condition and health of a forest may be just as important as its size in hectares. But many of the ways that forests can be damaged by humans are difficult to observe and easy to overlook. Hear first-hand from the authors of two innovative science reports that highlight blind spots in the way we measure and manage forests and what we need to do about it. Both reports present new evidence and priorities for action under the UN climate change and biodiversity conventions, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Brief presentations will be followed by group discussions with the authors.

  • University of Queensland and WCS looked at the way damage accumulates in forests that lose their status as ‘intact forest landscapes’. The results suggest that deforestation, the threat we often focus on, is only a sixth of the overall carbon story in these special places, and that most of the damage occurs in less obvious, more gradual ways.

A Metric on Contemporary Forest Degradation, Sept. 25, 9:00-10:00, Central Park Zoo

There is extensive evidence that high ecological integrity leads to higher levels of many ecosystem values important to people, and the degradation of integrity is happening worldwide. Indeed, globally, the aggregate impacts of degradation are arguably on a par with habitat conversion. However, ecological integrity is all too rarely included in policies or management decisions, partly because of a lack of practical tools to measure it. We will introduce an exciting, innovative new metric for mapping contemporary forest degradation. After explaining the science we will demonstrate what the metric reveals for patterns of degradation in different regions of the world, using compelling visuals from the team at Global Forest Watch. We will also demonstrate how participants can conduct fuller analyses and customization of one of the metrics via a tool in Google Earth Engine, providing countries with control and ownership over data.

Heritage Colombia-HeCo: nature at the heart of climate change and sustainable development, Sept. 25, 11:45-12:45 pm, Central Park Zoo

This event is co-sponsored by WCS, National Natural Parks of Colombia, Patrimonio Natural, Conservación Internacional Colombia, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world. With this privileged position comes great responsibility regarding the environmental, social and economic challenges the world is facing today. For this reason, Colombia has adopted several ambitious commitments at the national and international levels related to biodiversity, climate change and SDGs, to deliver conservation results as a solution for the human wellbeing. The event will showcase HeCo as the national flagship program to increase the long term financing and capacity of the Colombian National System of Protected Areas and other conservation strategies, with a landscape approach. HeCo will contribute to the management of important ecosystems and their services, reducing deforestation and degradation in the country’s carbon-rich ecosystems, such as the Amazon, Andean and Pacific forests. The event will have the participation of Cristian Samper, WCS CEO, high-level representatives from the Colombian government and other public-private partners as panelists. Strategic actors will be invited to boost the program’s financing and implementation as an ambitious action to deliver on the country’s commitments related to climate change, biodiversity and the SDGs. The event will target an audience comprised of potential public and private donors, international financial organizations, civil society, among others.

Protecting essential ecosystems for a stable climate future, Sept. 25, 11:15-12:45, Central Park Zoo

This session hosted by Conservation International and WCS will ask, where are the places that we can’t afford to lose from a climate perspective? Policy and financing mechanisms for natural climate solutions such as avoided deforestation have historically prioritized intervention where loss is most imminent. However, recent research has shown that anthropogenic threats to ecosystems that are essential for the climate are growing and may also shift dramatically over time, putting previously ‘secure’ ecosystems at risk as their protected status changes, as countries move in or out of conflict, and as economic development creates new commercial agricultural frontiers. Panelists will offer their perspectives and research identifying the places we need to conserve in order to make the transition to a stable future climate. What is absolutely essential for us to protect? We will discuss the imperative to pay attention to these places now, even if the threats they face are medium- or long-term. The presentations will be followed by a moderated discussion so please come ready to participate in the conversation.

The “Power of Nature in a Planetary Emergency”: Launch of the Forests for Life Partnership and closing rally and reception at Central Park Zoo, Sept 25, 5-8 pm

WCS is hosting the event on September 25 at Central Park Zoo, which will focus on how nature-based solutions for climate can also deliver for biodiversity and the Sustainable Development Goals. As this is also the final day of the Hub, the afternoon program will be a capstone on Nature-Based Solutions delivered at the Summit, showcasing ambitious climate commitments made by countries, private sector, civil society, and indigenous organizations along with cross-cutting reflections by leaders and experts. This will culminate in an evening program that recognizes and generates momentum for the “Power of Nature in a Planetary Emergency.”

The program will begin with the launch of a partnership and will lead directly into a rally and closing reception co-hosted by WCS and N4C with approximately 300 people and keynote remarks by the UN Secretary General (invited) and/or other climate leaders amplifying the power of nature to address climate change. We want to capitalize on this moment to harness a step change in the intersection of nature and climate over the next decade as we continue into the UNFCCC COP 25 in Chile in December and the start of implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Speakers for the launch include:

  • Moderated by Cristián Samper, CEO Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Lee White, Gabon's Minister for Forests, Sea, the Environment and Climate Plan [confirmed]
  • Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica [confirmed]
  • Winston Lackin, Ambassador in charge of Environment, Government of Suriname [confirmed]
  • Aileen Lee, Chief Program Officer, Conservation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation [confirmed]
  • Sonia Guajajara, National Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) [confirmed]
  • Zac Goldsmith, MP, International Environment Minister, UK government [invited]
  • Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation of Myanmar [confirmed]
  • Ministers from Norway and Guyana [invited] 

Speakers for the rally include:

  • Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji [confirmed]
  • Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Centre [confirmed]
  • UN Secretary General António Guterres [invited]
  • Luis Alfonso de Alba, UN Special Envoy for Climate Summit [invited]
  • Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP [confirmed]
  • Cristiana Pasca Palmer, Executive Secretary, CBD [confirmed]
  • Emmanuel Faber, CEO Danone [confirmed]
  • David Nabarro, Lead of UN Nature-based solutions track [confirmed]
  • Carolina Schmidt, Minister of Environment, Chile and President COP25 [invited]
  • Jacinda Adern, Prime Minister of New Zealand [invited]
  • Tashka Yawanawa, Chief of Yawanawa, Brazilian Amazon [invited]
  • Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Co-ordinatrice AFPAT [invited]
  • Marina Melanidis, Head of Youth4Nature delegation [confirmed]
  • Greta Thunberg [invited]