As the media continues to focus on the turbulence of Brexit, terrorism and the circus of U.S. politics, we must remind ourselves that the future of our planet really is the single most important issue facing humanity.

We are at a crossroads, where the collective actions we take over the next two years must set about restoring nature and saving our planet. WWF’s Living Planet Report shows wildlife populations have plummeted by 60% since 1970, and this isn’t just a “far away” problem. Over half of UK species have declined over the same period, with once-familiar creatures like the puffin and turtle dove now on the endangered list.

Despite the fact that natural resources are worth around $125 trillion a year to the global economy vital habitats and natural systems – oceans, forests, rivers and grasslands – are being destroyed. Nature loss and climate change are the greatest systemic risks to our global economy – natural disasters caused by humans already cost more than $300 billion per year.

To address this urgent challenge, we all need to change the way we operate. The state of our planet has been low on the list of priorities for too long, surpassed by concerns about the economy, jobs and growth. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the environment underpins our prosperity. Those who regard environmental destruction as the necessary price of progress are depleting the wealth of future generations.

To tackle the most pressing issue of our generation, WWF has set out to inspire the action urgently needed. By 2020 we must galvanise politicians, business leaders and the public to agree commitments and actions under a new global deal for nature and people. And by 2030, we must have stopped the decline in biodiversity and be witnessing a recovery, with nature’s vital signs improving markedly. Working collaboratively with others is essential, and WWF is calling for the new global deal to unite world leaders and catalyse a movement – translating growing awareness into clear action, making it unacceptable to sit back and watch the destruction of nature and tackling the underlying root causes driving nature’s decline. This needs real backing at the highest levels.

A political awakening?

Here in the UK, political commitments are being made which could have a huge positive impact on the environment. The Agriculture Bill and the promised new Environment Bill are vital opportunities to do things differently and set a positive example to the rest of the world. The latter should set out ambitious new targets for nature’s restoration, including a clear approach to accounting for and reducing the UK’s footprint on the environment elsewhere in the world.

There were encouraging ‘green shoots’ in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement: the announcement of a biodiversity net gain requirement for new homes in England; a Future Homes Standard by 2025 to end fossil fuel heating of new homes; and a new global review on the economic value of biodiversity.

Our challenge to business

Tanya Steele addresses an audience of business leaders at the UKGBC Leaders Network Dinner

The involvement of business is central and crucial; nothing can be done without its support, inspiration and innovation. As consumers take a keener interest in the source of their products, businesses must respond if they are not to be left behind.

Companies must join in the fight for our world, driving each other to do better, and encouraging politicians to raise the bar. In addition to higher product standards, increasing resource efficiency and waste reduction, it’s about recognising that the future of a profitable and sustainable UK economy depends on international trade deals that reduce our footprint and spark a race to the top.

I would urge all businesses to put their full weight behind the campaign for net zero UK emissions by 2045. It is very encouraging to see that the World Green Building Council has also launched a Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, and that UKGBC is promoting the adoption of this as part of its Advancing Net Zero campaign. The business sector has a huge role to play in ensuring that all new buildings meet high energy efficiency standards, but also in pushing for necessary investment to retro-fit existing stock. The most progressive businesses are first movers, driving higher standards rather than waiting for governments to set them so I would urge them to sign up to such commitments. The best buildings can be affordable, beautiful and sustainable – WWF’s Living Planet Centre in Woking is a shining example.

I really believe our planet can and will be saved, and that there is a global movement of concerned individuals, businesses and political leaders that will do this. I want WWF to continue working with businesses and organisations such as the UKGBC to raise awareness of the issues crippling our planet and to give a lead to put things right. Together we can restore nature for this and future generations.