How was 2016 for the environment, and for Synchronicity Earth?
A year of ups and downs for the environment
Adoption of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meant that 2016 kicked off on a positive note. Further high profile gatherings throughout the year (the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, the International Marine Conservation Conference in Canada, the CITES CoP in South Africa and the Convention on Biological Diversity CoP in Mexico to name just a few) built on that positive energy and reinforced the notion that we cannot wait for others to solve the planet’s environmental ‘threshold’ issues. The oceans were arguably the biggest winner in 2016, with the creation of several new Marine Protected Areas, most notably in Hawaii, Mexico and the Ross Sea in the Antarctic.
The background to these events, however, was mounting evidence of rapidly declining species populations and the continuing destruction of vital wildlife habitats around the world. The Living Planet Report(WWF/ZSL) painted a bleak picture of species populations in freefall around the world, noting the particularly dire situation for freshwater habitats, while the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species continued to record the increasingly negative impact human activities are having on all kinds of precious plants, animals and fungi. 2016 also saw the continuation of a prolonged and devastating mass bleaching event which affected many of the world’s coral reefs, not least the Great Barrier Reef.
In combination, these trends lent a new urgency to our work.
A great year for Synchronicity Earth
Despite the urgency and scope of the challenges faced, for Synchronicity Earth 2016 has been an overwhelmingly positive year. Our capacity to respond to these challenges and embrace new opportunities has grown as we have brought in invaluable expertise to our team. Joining us in 2016 were Dr Simon Stuart, hitherto Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, Helen Meredith, Executive Director of the Amphibian Survival Alliance, as well as two new Research Analysts and a Communications specialist. Their experience and the energy they bring will enable us to maximise the impact of our partners’ work and to build strategies to scale up proven conservation solutions.
Our focus this year has been on:
Amplifying impact at sea
While the creation of several new Marine Protected Areas in 2016 is an encouraging development, we understand that further action is needed to ensure that these are meaningful. We get behind those uniting the conservation community around shared principles to protect high seas marine life and ensure a legally binding treaty. And in summer there was a long overdue victory for our partners Bloom and the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, with a landmark EU decision to ban deep-sea bottom trawling, a particularly destructive fishing practice, below 800 metres in the Northeast Atlantic.
Promoting partnerships on land
National parks and protected areas can play an important role in protecting vulnerable species and habitats from the worst impacts of human activities. Yet in many locations they have failed to halt or even slow down habitat degradation and species declines.
Evidence points to the key role of local communities and indigenous groups as environmental stewards. We work alongside and develop partnerships with these groups, often through local NGOs, to secure land-rights and develop ecologically-sensitive livelihoods. In many places that are vulnerable to over-exploitation, extractive activities and unfettered development, these groups often represent the last and best chance for environmental protection. Understanding the importance of developing networks of partners to unite people on the ground, and connecting these, where necessary, to scientific expertise and local and international stakeholders, leads to more successful conservation outcomes.
Restoring wetlands and conserving species
Concerted conservation action can work even in the most degraded of ecosystems. We have supported the restoration of degraded habitats and the captive breeding of threatened species, which – combined – have seen numbers of critically endangered species increasing.
We have begun to provide a blueprint for businesses who wish to have a net positive impact on the environment, enabling them to contribute to meaningful habitat restoration activity around the world, and to report on the impact of their philanthropic giving.
We have been able to do all of this, and so much more, because of your continued support. In this, our networks of allies and friends are beginning to play a more prominent role. Our Women’s Alliance for the Living Worldbrings in women from different sectors to contribute their energy, time and commitment to help us build a response which is more than the sum of its parts.
Underpinning all our efforts are the commitment and expertise of our partners, scientific advisors and conservationists with whom we share a common goal: to combat the extinction crisis, conserve biodiversity wherever it is threatened and promote a better relationship between people and planet.
We look forward to unveiling our emerging strategies in 2017. Until then, we wish you and your families a restful and peaceful festive season.