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It's time for a new deal for people and nature

If 2019 was the year that people made their voices heard, 2020 must be the year that government, business and civil society leaders take urgent and decisive action, writes Eitan Prince.

Last year was extraordinary. It feels as if the world had finally woken up to the risks of losing nature and felt the impact of a changing climate. On home soil, communities across the country experienced the tangible effects of a changing climate, with severe drought hitting farmers in the Eastern Cape particularly hard. Abroad there were unprecedented forest fires, from the Amazon to Australia. We also saw how the efforts of one determined young woman could ignite a movement across the globe, grabbing international media headlines and pushing calls for climate action further up the international agenda.

Young climate protesters hold up posters calling for climate action now.
© Ruan Wolfaardt
The year 2019 saw a rise in climate action across the goal, with young people playing a prominent role.

This combination of dire impacts and inspiring action has triggered a level of public awareness never seen before. But awareness is just the start. We need action to shift us on a green road to recovery - especially in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

So, what have we learnt from 2019 that we must follow through on in 2020?

1. It's urgent

The impacts of climate change are no longer a distant prospect – we are feeling them right now and right here. Nobody is exempt. As the world gets warmer, extreme weather events will become more frequent and more intense. Governments must take urgent and ambitious climate action in 2020 to enhance their Paris Agreement commitments and set us on a path to be zero carbon by 2050.

Renewable energy image of photovoltaic modules on the background of sunset and cloudy sky.
© Shutterstock / foxbat / WWF
A shift away from coal and oil, and towards renewable energy sources is key for the transition to a low carbon economy.

2. It’s all connected

We know the challenges are connected. Human health and well-being, climate change and loss of nature used to be seen in isolation; now we know they are interconnected. We can’t overcome climate change without also looking after our natural resources. If we don’t take care of land, oceans and wildlife today, we won’t be able to secure food, water and clean air tomorrow. Nature is our safety net, so we have to ensure nature loss is curbed.

A beautiful nature scene
© Jonathan Caramanus / Green Renaissance / WWF-UK
We have to ensure nature loss is curbed if nature is to continue providing us with food, water and clean air.

3. It’s obvious

The price of doing nothing far outweighs the price of taking action. We now understand that conserving nature and living sustainably are compelling ethical arguments but also make social,​ economic, health and development sense. A healthy environment is indispensable for our quality of life.

A woman in Kenya farms her land.
© Jonathan Caramanus / Green Renaissance / WWF-UK
By taking care of nature, we're taking care of people's livelihoods.

This year the world will have the opportunity to act. Countries – including South Africa – must submit their emission cutting plans in line with the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement; a first-ever global treaty on the protection and sustainable use of marine life in the high seas will be agreed; and new 2030 targets for the conservation of nature and biodiversity will be set. These decisions could help us define a new plan that tackles climate change and nature loss, and put people and nature on the path towards a sustainable future.

At WWF we are calling this opportunity to set a new course a ‘New Deal for People and Nature’. We call on governments and businesses and reach out to you and millions of others to support these efforts.

The science and the signs tell us it has to happen now.

Eitan Prince Photo
Eitan Prince, Digital Communications Manager

Eitan Prince loves the outdoors, both urban and natural.

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