Philanthropist Donates $1 Billion To Protect The Environment Over The Next Decade

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Nov. 7 2018, Updated 12:40 p.m. ET

Hansjörg Wyss is investing big in the planet. The Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist announced last week that his foundation will donate $1 billion to conservation efforts, with an ultimate goal of conserving 30 percent of the earth by 2030.

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The Wyss Foundation will collaborate with several partners on the Wyss Campaign for Nature, which strives to “help rapidly expand the proportion of the Earth's lands and oceans that are conserved so current and future generations can drink clean water, breathe clean air, and experience the wonders of the natural world,” according to a press release. The mission is very much in line with the Wyss Foundation, a private, charitable organization that focuses on protecting wild and public lands. 

The $1 billion initiative will adopt four primary strategies to tackle its goal. The first one is simple: Support community conservation projects with money. The Wyss Foundation will parcel out cash to local and/or indigenous leaders to “establish, expand, or improve” the stewardship of parks and protected areas — and it’s already chosen organizations for its first round of funding. The Nature Conservancy, Aves Argentinas, the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust, Fundatia Conservation Carpathia, and Fundación Flora y Fauna Argentina are a few of the groups receiving $48 million in financial commitments.

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Collectively, the Wyss Foundation believes these projects will help protect about 10 million acres of land and 17,000 square kilometers of ocean areas.

The second strategy involves increasing global conservation targets for marine and land protection. Those targets are set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, an agreement adopted in the early 1990s by nearly 200 countries. The countries will convene in 2020 to reassess the current targets, and the Wyss Campaign for Nature plans to pressure them to commit to protecting a minimum 30 percent of the natural world by 2030.

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For its third strategy, the Wyss Foundation will team up with the National Geographic Society to rally the public and politicians to action. The partners plan to raise awareness of the issues through “notable stories of conservation successes and challenges,” which will hopefully inspire others to join the fight.

The final prong of the plan is to rope in the scientific community. The Wyss Foundation will launch a pilot project at the University of Bern in Switzerland to conduct studies on different conservation strategies and share their findings with the world.

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The campaign hopes to send a clear warning about the planet’s shrinking biodiversity, and all the problems that come with it. It points to a scary prediction that the world will lose two-thirds of its wildlife by 2020 — a stat that’s supported by a recent WWF report claiming we’ve already lost 60 percent. With accelerated action, Wyss believes, conservationists can change those dire numbers.

"From the forests that supply our drinking water to the rugged backcountry that inspires the imagination of our children, everyone on Earth has a stake in conserving our planet's wild places before they are gone," Wyss said in the press release. 

"I believe that to confront the global conservation crisis, we need to do far more to support locally led initiatives that conserve lands in the public trust, so that everyone has a chance to experience and explore the wonders of the outdoors."

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