Recently, the IUCN World Conservation Union announced that the Giant Panda is no longer globally endangered with extinction, but has been “down-listed” to globally vulnerable. The Fourth National Survey (2011-2014) in China estimated the range-wide population as 1,864 adult Giant Pandas, and that at least one distinct population, in the Minshan Mountains, includes more than 400 mature individuals. National surveys indicate that the past trend of decline has stopped, and the panda population has started to increase. Forest protection and reforestation in China has increased forest cover over the past decade, leading to an 11.8% increase in forest occupied by pandas and a 6.3% increase in suitable forests that are not occupied, yet.
Ending poverty is within our reach. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved since 1990, thanks to the sustained efforts of countless individuals, organizations and nations.
African coastal countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) rely heavily on fishing and related employment, yet these livelihoods are all under threat due to declining fish stocks. Coastal erosion and shoreline habitat loss have taken a toll on poor coastal communities that are the most vulnerable to climate change while having contributed to the climate change problem the least. There are more storms, more floods and more droughts than ever previously recorded.
In many African countries, the ocean economy contributes one-quarter of all revenues and one-third of export revenues. And as coastal populations grow, overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution and unsustainable tourism degrade marine and coastal biodiversity and worsen poverty.
With the adoption of a universal development agenda and growing commitments to fight climate change from all corners, 2015 will be remembered as a high water mark for international cooperation. Almost a year later, when the news is dominated by violence and nationalism, it’s tempting to give in to pessimism about global trends. But I find reason to hope when I see the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gaining traction.
The SDGs were the result of the most collaborative and inclusive process in UN history and signal a very real shift in the way people think about tackling development challenges to deliver a viable future for both the planet and its people. There is growing understanding that the two are indelibly linked.
“In a time when gods walked the earth, an epic battle rages between the encroaching civilization of man and the gods of the forest…” That’s the opening line of the official movie trailer for Princess Mononoke.
I’ve always been a fan of Studio Ghibli, but among their films, Princess Mononoke was one that inspired me most. If you don’t know the story, there’s a prince that gets involved in a war between mankind and gods. The fate of the world rests on a forest princess! Yes, there’s a fearless forest princess in this movie. With its strong plot, interesting characters and fantasy elements, it became one of the highest-grossing films in Japan. Sure enough, Mononoke led me to a path of believing in heroes and saving the world.
If I ask you what movie changed your life or inspired you to action, I’m guessing that you would tell me about a blockbuster, or maybe, a cause-related documentary. Stories speak to us differently and individually. The bigger question is, where can these stories take us?
As a young scientist, I travelled to the Brazilian Amazon to research forest fires. After weeks of talking to rural producers, rubber tappers, indigenous peoples and cattle ranchers, I realized that I had to think beyond conservation science and climate change implications to understand the Amazonian landscape. The nexus between people and the rainforest was also important. I came away wanting to help ensure that the value of forests to people, and the value of people to forests remained closely linked and well-recognized.
The loss of biodiversity—which is driven by rapid conversion of habitats and landscapes, the depletion of ocean fisheries, and climate change—is not new. But concern for how to decrease the loss of biodiversity is. We are no longer just scientists and conservationists. The international community now makes the loss of biodiversity central to the global political debate: nations have the responsibility to protect natural assets.
Too many times after a natural hazard strikes, public outcries follow once the level of devastation becomes clear. People wonder – and often rightly so – if the disaster could have been prevented. After the 2015 Nepal earthquake for example, years of investment in school buildings was wiped away in seconds because schools were not built to withstand earthquakes – often because people were not aware of the earthquake risk. Fortunately, it was a Saturday so the schools that collapsed did not also result in unimaginable human tragedy.
. WWF estimates that the ocean economy is the 7th largest economy, valued at US$ 24 trillion. With more than 6 million women directly employed in the fishery sector, and global job numbers set to grow to 43 million by 2030, the oceans are roaring. Yet, its natural capital has been systematically undervalued and overdrawn. According to the Bank’s Sunken Billions Revisited report, we are foregoing about $85 billion a year in additional revenues due to the mismanagement of fisheries. It is imperative that countries and citizens make informed decisions on resources, spatial planning and other important factors including the costs of marginalizing poor communities and the loss or degradation of critical habitats.
But oceans are often neglected in the development discourse. Obtaining the SDG 14 goal on oceans was a gargantuan, albeit noble effort. The Financing for Development architecture, the “Life below Water” goal and the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) made in Paris, urge us to capitalize on a new narrative: long-term financing of sustainable ocean economies in a climate change context.
Enter Oceans 2030
This is why the Bank is looking at oceans anew. People who saw our Oceans 2030 banner asked us if George Clooney or Julia Roberts were attending the 2016 Spring Meetings. While neither could make it, 20 Ministers of Finance and their representatives came to the first high-level ministerial dialogue, “Oceans 2030: Financing the Blue Economy for Sustainable Development”.
With a cast including Bank VP Laura Tuck and Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of Environment, Energy and the Sea (and COP-21 President), countries tackled complex questions about the ‘Blue Economy’. What’s stopping us from maximizing returns in jobs and GDP from a thriving blue economy with growing natural resource assets? How can we reduce uncertainty and produce sustainable, investable projects? Whether it is Seychelles’s blue bonds, USA on eco-tourism, the ‘Gabon Bleu’ or Colombia’s actions to address the inequality in coastal populations, countries are starting to see the merits of a balanced approach for harnessing the potential and wealth of oceans. They’re looking for ideas, finance, and knowledge to grow sectors like aquaculture, marine tourism especially cruises, marine biotechnology and cancer research.
My childhood forests are tall, old growth trees clinging to mountainous slopes.
My sister and I would spend the first two weeks of our summer break at camps in the mountains of Albania. Getting a spot at a camp was a coveted ‘luxury’ but my sister and I were lucky -our mother was an official chaperone. She would wake us at 5 am to walk in the forest before everyone else was up. I have to say that as a five year old I didn’t appreciate the scenery. It was too early in the morning and anyway who cared about birds and foxes? (One time though we did see a red squirrel jumping from tree branches and even I had to admit that was awesome.)
The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) are actively working with small island states to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and climate risk, including through their joint Small Island States Resilience Initiative. World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and GFDRR's Sofia Bettencourt tell us more.