President's Letter: "Going big" in the name of conservation

Carter Roberts headshot

Carter Roberts
President & CEO, WWF

I’m writing this shortly after returning from the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), held in Glasgow, Scotland. It was a two-week marathon of negotiations, speeches, panel discussions, and hallway conversations, all in the name of helping the world navigate climate change as equitably as possible. And while some important progress was made, there is still so much more to do. Because with every passing year, more scientific evidence accumulates that we are facing the destruction of our planetary systems at a scale not seen since the last ice age.

One implication of this reality is that we need to accelerate our work to match the speed of that destruction. The other implication is that we need to operate at a scale that can bend the curve of destruction before it’s too late. That means taking on issues that are global in nature, creating replicable and adaptable models, and then driving with unrelenting focus to deliver those models at a pace and scope that will make a difference.

In the pages of this magazine, you’ll find two examples of what it means to be big enough. In one case, leaders in 13 tiger range countries made common cause with NGOs like WWF to reverse the steep decline of wild tiger populations over the past 100 years. In 2010, the previous Year of the Tiger on the Chinese lunar calendar, we joined a goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger, in an initiative dubbed TX2. And we’re seeing real progress.

Certain areas of Bhutan are recording their first-ever tiger sightings. In India, home to 60% of the world’s tiger population, all tiger reserves—including 14 newly created sites—are now managed using international best practices. Tiger populations in Russia’s Land of the Leopard National Park have tripled. All this reminds us that if you work with local communities and like-minded partners to reduce poaching pressures and give tigers the space they need, they can thrive.

“The sustainable future of the planet we call home demands... nothing short of everything we can offer.”

Carter Roberts

Another example of going big is that many nations have advanced a commitment to inclusive, rights-based, and effective conservation, with the goal of increasing the portion of their geographies under conservation to 30% by 2030. Included in the targeted amount will be protected areas, sustainable use areas, Indigenous reserves, and other types of conserved land. Against that 30x30 goal, an array of approaches—from creating single parks to expanding and financing entire national conservation area systems—has emerged.

Which leads to our Enduring Earth collaborative, perhaps the most significant effort put forth by conservation groups and philanthropists on this front. It brings together The Nature Conservancy (TNC); The Pew Charitable Trusts; WWF; and ZOMALAB, the family office of Ben and Lucy Ana Walton, in partnership with communities and governments, to accelerate ocean, land, and freshwater conservation worldwide and help address the climate and biodiversity crises.

This new initiative builds on programs like Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) for Life, which has helped hold back the tide of deforestation and fires in an expansive area of the Amazon rain forest equal to one and a half times the size of California. It builds on the triumph of Bhutan for Life, which helped secure permanent funding for Bhutan’s system of protected areas. And all these successes build on TNC’s community-based model in British Columbia that supports the management of 21 million acres of coastal rain forest and promotes sustainable development in partnership with First Nations peoples in the region.

In all of these examples, a coalition of groups came together to define an objective and execute a plan, creating a template that others followed in delivering results that are big enough to matter. This is the kind of conservation that helps fulfill our promise as an organization and offers a glimpse of a world where people and nature thrive, together. The sustainable future of the planet we call home demands all of this, and so much more. It demands nothing short of everything we can offer.

Carter Roberts

President and CEO

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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