The following are excerpts of remarks given today by WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper at the Celebration of World Wildlife Day 2020, on the theme of “Sustaining all life on earth.”

“This is an absolutely critical year for nature and biodiversity and the sustainability of our planet.

“2020 is being called the ‘biodiversity super year,’ with the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille in June, the Biodiversity Summit here at the United Nations in September, and CBD Conference of the Parties in Kunming in October, in which the global framework for the next ten years for conserving biodiversity will be finalized. Finally, the next round of climate talks will be held in November in Glasgow, UK.

“Within this context is the importance of recognizing the indivisibility of the Sustainability Development Goals. Most importantly is that Nature underpins all of the SDGs. Unless we conserve our natural systems in the oceans and on land (SDGs 14 and 15), we cannot hope to have clean water (SDG6), protect our planet against the ravages of climate change (SDG13), or achieve all of the other SDGs on which a healthy planet, ultimately, depend.

“With perhaps a million species threatened with extinction as highlighted in the recent IPBES report, we cannot wait. We need to act now, and getting it right is critical. We see the business and investment sectors moving, governments at many national and local levels in countries scaling up, and young people marching to demand we step up the global response.

“We must strive to establish ambitious global frameworks and take transformative global action for nature.

“What are five transformative actions we can take?

“We must focus on the conservation of the areas with the highest ecosystem integrity, and promote nature-based solutions to climate change on land and oceans. Specifically, we need to:

“1. Conserve intact forests. They cover 7.2 million km2 representing ~4.5% of the earth’s terrestrial surface. In addition to their role as strongholds for biodiversity, intact forests preserve the vital ecological services that support sustainable water supplies and clean air globally. They also hold immense carbon stocks – equal to 9 years’ worth of global emissions – and sequester over ¼ of the world’s annual emissions.

“2. Protected areas should be expanded and strengthened to cover at least 30% of all land and sea areas within the next 10 years. These should be in areas of high biodiversity and high biomass, with high ecological integrity, they must be managed effectively, and monitored. Such management should be done with indigenous peoples and other local communities.

“3. Promote sustainable agriculture and halt land degradation, ensuring no net loss in ecosystems important for biodiversity or high ecological integrity by 2030, and a net recovery by 2050, and striving for a net gain in the area and integrity of all natural freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems.

“4. All illegal offtake and use of wild species should be prevented, and we should ensure that any offtake and trade are sustainable, well managed, and monitored. It will also help reduce zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 in the future.

“5. We need to accelerate the transition sustainable cities. More than half of the 7.8 billion people in the planet live in cities, a number expected to increase to more than 80% by 2050. Cities can improve the quality of life of people, served as laboratories for innovation, and help reduce the environmental footprint

“The good news is that we know how to do what needs to be done, with the right tools at hand, and additional new innovations constantly on the horizon.

“Let’s ensure we make the most of the political opportunities we have this year to set ambitious, integrated and transformative global targets, and continue to engage all sectors of society. On this World Wildlife Day, let us celebrate our wonderful natural world, and ensure that we all work together, globally and locally, to conserve our planet and thereby our common future. ”