New York, Jan. 20, 2021The following statement was released today upon the inauguration of U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. The statement outlines the policy priorities for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Said WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper:

“We welcome the Biden-Harris Administration and its commitment to combatting the climate crisis and advancing policies that ensure the protection of biodiversity that sustains all life on Earth. We are encouraged that the new Administration and Congress will work together to promote sustainable development, recognizing the interdependence of people and nature.

“We look forward to the U.S. restoring its leadership role on the environment globally—including working to tackle the biodiversity and climate change crises through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement.

“The United States needs to reengage in advancing environmental and conservation solutions as the world faces existential crises all caused by humankind: the loss of biodiversity, climate change, and the threat of pandemic disease. These crises are inter-related with many of the same causes and solutions.

“We know that pandemics of zoonotic origin (passed between animals and people) such as COVID-19 are directly tied to wildlife trade and the breaching of the human-wildlife interface through deforestation and forest degradation. We also know that deforestation and forest degradation are major causes of carbon emissions, and that more than a third of the solution to climate mitigation can come from nature-based solutions. Protected and conserved areas are at the heart of the solution: They help protect biodiversity, mitigate climate change, and prevent future pandemics of zoonotic origin. Further, they support the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people and are critical to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“At WCS, we will work with Congress and the Administration to advance and support policies that: 

Protect biodiversity through strong protected area management and combating illegal and unsustainable trade in wildlife, timber, and fish;

Promote the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change through nature-based solutions, including the preservation of intact forests and coral reefs; and fostering resilient ecosystems and communities.

Prevent future zoonotic pandemics by ending the commercial trade in live wildlife for human consumption and associated markets; implementing a One Health approach; and preventing the loss and degradation of intact ecosystems

“The world is at a crossroads: We must sustain nature, and nature will sustain us. Our human footprint has increased dramatically over the past century, transforming more than two-thirds of the land surface of the planet and most of the ocean. As a result, more than a million species are threatened with extinction, and the lives of millions of people will be impacted. We can no longer ignore this assault on nature that disproportionally harms poor communities and nations. We know what the solutions are, and we have a moral obligation to act now, building a more sustainable and equitable future.

“We look forward to working with the incoming Administration and the new Congress to address these critical priorities.”