Montreal, Dec. 16, 2022 -- The following remarks were delivered by Joe Walston, WCS Executive Vice President for Global Conservation, at the Convention on Biological Diversity CoP15 in Montréal:

“The Wildlife Conservation Society would like to extend our gratitude to China, as the CoP Presidency, and to Canada, as co-host of CoP15, for bringing us together for these critical negotiations.

“My name is Joe Walston, and I am proud to be speaking on behalf of the thousands of my WCS colleagues from across the globe who have been providing science and expertise for the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and who have been involved in the negotiations for close to four years.

“On behalf of WCS, we have three messages for governments:                                                                                                                

“First, the science is clear that the three existential and interrelated crises of our day: the collapse of biodiversity, climate change, and the persistent threat of pandemics of zoonotic origin, all result from our degradation and destruction of nature. Our first responsibility, therefore, must be to prevent the further degradation and loss of ecological integrity, particularly in our most highly intact and biodiverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Ambitious actions outlined in the conservation targets of the GBF are a precondition for halting and reversing biodiversity loss and achieving an equitable, prosperous, and sustainable future. We urge you to adopt such a GBF.

“Fortunately, our second message is that we have a variety of proven tools to reverse biodiversity loss. For example, protected and conserved areas, when designed and managed equitably with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, are demonstrably effective in addressing all three crises. We should build on these successes, including adopting a target to protect and conserve at least 30 percent of land and oceans by 2030. This effort must, of course, be complemented by other policy actions to redirect harmful incentives, to transform our food systems, and to radically increase global support to countries and communities that do the most for global biodiversity yet suffer the most from our collective impacts.

“Our final message is that an ambitious framework presents an extraordinary opportunity to restore our broken relationship with nature. CoP15 could be the catalyst for a renaissance for nature—one that secures lives and economies; prevents the pathogen spillovers that could, and likely will, lead to future pandemics of zoonotic origin; stabilizes local and global climate systems; and provides agency and security for peoples and cultures who have built interdependent relationships with biodiversity that we must learn from. Let us be emboldened by what we could achieve.

“It is within our power to transform the trajectory of nature, but incremental political and financial commitments will fail the planet. Half measures will not deliver half the solution; our response must be commensurate to the threats we face. If you, the Parties, do not truly commit to change our abusive relationship with nature here in Montreal, we will all be judged harshly by future generations, and rightly so.”