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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
The science is clear: Humanity’s window of opportunity to keep warming below the critical 1.5°C threshold is rapidly closing. As a science-driven organization, WWF is responding with urgency, innovation, and collaboration. Within their broad portfolio of work, our climate team has added a new multipronged strategy focused on four priority areas in which WWF is well positioned to deliver meaningful results for people and nature.
WWF is spearheading the use of innovative financing mechanisms for large-scale, long-term conservation solutions that benefit people and climate. Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) is a game-changing approach that secures the policy changes and funding necessary for sustainable conservation success and binds them together in a single agreement. WWF’s first PFP, Amazon Region Protected Areas for Life, reduced deforestation in Brazilian protected areas by 21% between 2008 and 2020, reducing CO2 emissions by an amount equivalent to shutting off 27 coal-fired power plants for a year. A more recent PFP, Heritage Colombia (HECO), secured US$245 million in public and private financing to permanently protect over 123,000 sq. mi. of landscapes and seascapes and strengthen the rights and livelihoods of communities across the country. Conservation actions supported by HECO will reduce emissions by as much as taking nearly 10 million cars off the road for a year.
The cost of climate adaptation—the process of adjusting to the changing climate and its cascading impacts—can be a heavy burden for many countries, and for developing nations most of all. In fact, the scale of financing needed to achieve global climate goals requires systemic changes to the international financial system, and political support is emerging to drive that transformation. For example, the Bridgetown Initiative, an effort championed by Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, proposes mechanisms to reform institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in order to set greater climate finance targets, improve transparency, and allow for billions more dollars in grants and loans to countries for climate projects.
When it comes to decarbonizing the US economy, much of the focus has been on shifting away from combusting fossil fuels for energy production. WWF and partners founded the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in 2015 with 35 companies aligning their climate targets with climate science. Today, over 5,000 companies have committed to set science-based targets, including deep cuts in fossil fuel-based energy, to align their climate actions with 1.5 degree futures. And it’s working. Analysis reflects that companies participating in the SBTi are decreasing emissions at a rate of 8.2% per year, exceeding the 4.2% required to align with net-zero pathways.
Roughly 13% of US emissions come from a source few people think about: thermal energy, the heat used in a wide range of industrial processes, from forging steel to creating the chemicals used in everyday products. In 2017, WWF and partners founded the Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC)—a global coalition of companies, institutions, and governments—to address this neglected but critical wedge of emissions. The vision of the RTC’s 70 corporate members is to slash US industrial thermal emissions by 30% by 2030. Reaching this goal requires a 150% increase in renewable thermal energy use—a goal we can only achieve through collaboration. RTC leverages energy buyers’ collective efforts and voices to accelerate the renewable thermal energy market, educate policy-makers, and lower technology costs for critical renewable thermal energy technologies.
WWF has made reducing food waste a core part of its climate strategy. A recent report from WWF estimates that nearly 40% of the global food supply is never eaten. When we waste food, we waste the land, water, and energy used to grow, harvest, transport, and package it—while also producing 8%–10% of global GHG emissions. In the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates more emissions than the entire airline industry. As part of its mission to address food waste and climate change, WWF is encouraging food businesses, cities, and jurisdictions to join the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment, a public-private partnership aimed at halving food waste on the West Coast of North America by 2030, and sign on to global commitments aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
How can humanity mitigate climate change while also feeding its growing population and contributing to coastal community resilience? Here’s one answer that might surprise you: seaweed. Farming seaweed doesn’t require arable land, freshwater, fertilizers, or pesticides, making it a relatively resource-efficient, low-carbon, nutritious food source. Seaweed farms also improve the quality of water, provide habitat for marine life, and create jobs for coastal communities that have been devastated by overfishing. WWF’s grants to researchers and other stakeholder organizations, combined with our recent impact investments in for-profit seaweed companies, are spurring technological innovation and gathering critical data needed to improve and scale up this emerging sector.
Nature-based solutions leverage the power of healthy ecosystems to deliver tangible benefits to people, climate, and nature. To leave out any part of this triad is to fail in addressing the intertwined crises of nature loss and climate change. Through the Nature-based Solutions Origination Platform, WWF seeks to demonstrate what a high-integrity offering with equal benefits for humans, wildlife, and the planet looks like.
We have identified a handful of priority forest and mangrove landscapes and are taking a holistic approach to addressing the systemic, interconnected drivers of deforestation and degradation through responses such as improved forest management and forest landscape restoration. Our teams will identify appropriate interventions that aim to produce lasting, large-scale results for communities and the ecosystems that sustain them. We will also create financing solutions that bring together different sources of funding—including significant leadership from the private sector—and ensure these projects are fully supported and have the best chance of success over the long term.
Even as we work to limit warming to 1.5°C, the truth is that the most vulnerable communities are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. WWF’s Mangroves for Community and Climate project improves the resilience of coastal communities in a variety of ways, from maintaining more reliable water supplies by harvesting rainwater to reducing people’s reliance on a single source of income. The project also seeks to help nature itself adapt to climate change by planting the most resilient mangrove species to ensure recovery following tropical storms, promoting sustainable livelihoods that reduce pressure on ecosystems, and more.
Much of WWF’s work is about catalyzing the systemic changes needed to address climate change at a global scale. But we also need individual commitment to climate action. In this all-hands-on-deck moment, you too can fight climate change by making just a few changes in how you do things, both at home and in your workplace.
Where possible, choose a low-carbon form of transportation. Locally, this probably means walking or taking a train, mass transit, or an electric car or bike when possible. Limit air travel, especially for short trips.
The Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat at 68°F in the winter and reducing the temperature even further when you are asleep or away at work. During the summer, keep the temperature at 78°F and adjust upward to 82°. This not only saves energy but also saves you money. With newer programmable systems, you can even preset the temperatures.
Over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) come from our food system. If every American were to adopt a healthier diet, cutting their meat consumption by 25%, we could reduce global GHGs by 82 million metric tons every year. On average, that means consuming roughly one pound of meat less each week, which translates to about five or six average-sized meatballs.
The UN estimates the fashion industry accounts for up to 10% of global GHGs. Buy fewer pieces and shop at consignment and thrift shops and resale sites. Repair, re-tailor, resell, or donate garments rather than throwing them away.
More than half of Americans want government to act on climate change, but only 8% of registered voters have contacted government officials to urge them to take action even once over the past 12 months. Make your voice heard.