Our window of opportunity

Statement by IUCN Director General Inger Andersen for World Environment Day.

Local villager planting trees for more sustainable livelihoods

In the short 15 years that have passed since the start of the century, the world has achieved extraordinary progress in human welfare. For the first time in human history, the prospect of ending human poverty appears possible. Indeed, this is the ambition of the first Sustainable Development Goal, which aims to achieve exactly this by 2030 - in 15 years.

Yet the same changes that have led to widespread increases in economic well-being are undermining the systems that sustain life on this planet. And we can expect more of this to happen over the next 15 years, in ways that bring hope yet further strain the planet’s capacity to support human needs and expectations.

The world is facing a rapidly closing window. The path we choose today will define nature’s ability to support us as a species during our lifetime and for generations to come. Everything is at stake. But how do we achieve our dreams of universal well-being while conserving the nature we depend on for realising these very aspirations? Is it even possible?

We at IUCN believe that this is not a zero-sum game; human progress and nature conservation are not mutually exclusive. There is a viable path: a profound transformation of our patterns of production and consumption that re-establishes a balance between human needs and natural endowments. We do have credible and accessible political, economic, and technological approaches that can promote general welfare in ways that support and even enhance our planet’s natural assets.

Everyone has a right to dream of a better life. And we must realise that every person’s dreams and aspirations depend on nature. We are nature. Right now, the choice is in our collective hands. We have an opportunity to choose the right path, the sustainable path, the path of life. But this opportunity won’t last long. The window is closing.

Go to top