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WWF’s new boss: big up for rewilding Romanian Carpathians

Brand new boss of WWF International, Marco Lambertini, is underlining the organization’s commitment to ecological connectivity and biodiversity – “bread and butter” of the teams under the sign of panda – and gives a big up to the Romanian branch for the amazing European bison rewilding program. The interview has been carried out at the debriefing session within Green Week 2014 in Brussels.

On the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

We are not an anti-trade organization, we do understand that this is potentially a very important agreement between two major economic blocks, but we do ask both parties, not just the European Union but also the American administration to be extremely serious about ensuring that environmental standards are embedded to the agreement. Because there is a risk – we looked into that – that a pre-trade agreement without specific environmental safeguards could undermine the progress on both countries’ environmental legislation. So that is a serious stance that we take, we are watching the progress very carefully, and want to make sure that these safeguards are specifically mentioned.

Lower environmentally charged normative might pass in the negotiations in the detriment of the more protective ones. This is what we want to avoid! We should not take it as a done deal; I do not think it is a done deal – the European people and the American people from different perspectives are in the end very very protective and concerned about their environmental legislation. If things go into the wrong direction we will mobilize a major movement of dissent in the EU and in the US if at any stage environmental issues will be undermined by this trade agreement. We will push on both sides to make sure this is not the outcome.

WWF in the near future

I am here to help the WWF to move it to the next level, it is a great organization, very effective, very large, 100+ countries, thousands of supporters… But I feel, we all feel that we have a much greater potential. We have to work internally more integrated, more cohesive, with a better use of resources, human and financial, that we have in our network. On the other hand, we have to open up for partnerships more courageously. We are pretty well known as collaborative and solution oriented even with business and companies. But now I think we have to be even more selective in choosing our partnerships with the purpose of really achieving large amounts that can deliver a systemic change. So we really have to see a change. And I am talking about protection of natural places and species, this is what we are about, but increasingly we will look at the root causes that produce these outcomes.

Pressures like loss of resources, fisheries, forestry, agriculture are the big drivers at the public level, private level, and governance. They are all connected when they produce the threat to ecosystems.

Main global environmental priorities

Next year is a critical year for major reasons, one is the climate agreement and the other is the sustainable development goals agreement with the UN. They both are absolute milestones, opportunities that we cannot miss, in order to really embed the environment, environmental goals, and reach a climate agreement ambitious that will be able to put us on course towards at least two degrees increase as global warming target. The European Commission, the European Union in general, have a major challenge and a major responsibility to continue to be at the forefront in being really ambitious in what they want to achieve, but at the same time in connecting with the other key players, notably the US – that is coming onboard – se Obama’s latest announcements – China, which is getting extremely serious when it comes to pollution and emissions. So I think the European Union has to be looking at making coalitions as well, and not be a lone leader, but in a partnership.

Tackle the industries that greenwash their message

This is a question I get a lot. I think we are moving away very very clearly by having very strict criteria that regulate our relationship with businesses. We are moving away from sponsorships, I mean taking money in exchange for the logo, no, we do not do that anymore. We will engage in partnerships with a very clear agenda that drives both, the industry and us, towards reaching environmental goals. It is a new way of building partnerships, that is asking the industries to come to our agenda and setting together a shared agenda. That is the only clear way of making a real durable shift.

I wanna refer to two processes  that are extremely important, the Forestry Stewardship Council and the Marine Stewardship Council. These are certification models that we triggered years ago and now are fully embraced by the industry and are having a major impact as they assess sustainable practices at sea and in the forest in large areas of the world.

On ecological connectivity, the fundamental work of WWF

Of course we are not renouncing our bread and butter. Biodiversity is the engine of life on Earth. Biodiversity is the engine for a healthy environment. Biodiversity is the foundation for a healthy economy, for well being and for happiness. There is no question in isolating the environment from the rest, so we need to deal with the economy, we need to deal with health and poverty eradication, but they are all connected to environmental degradation. Of course we are going to concentrate on places and species per se. You just mentioned the bisons in the Carpathians, I come from Tuscany where recently I had a wolf 20 meters from myself. They are coming back, bears are coming back to Europe, all the megafauna; it is a big success for the environmentalism and our movement.

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