Bring it on

14 January 2011 | Article

IUCN is rising to the conservation challenges faced by countries worldwide. Three key representatives of IUCN National Committees talk about the emerging issues they face in the next 10 years and what’s being done to address them.

Diana Shand, Vice President of IUCN and Chair of the New Zealand Committee for IUCN Members 

What do you see as the greatest conservation challenges in your region in the coming decade?

In Oceania, climate change, without a doubt. Some trends and events give us a feeling of what might be in store, even with changes of a few degrees. The small trickle of climate refugees spurred by sea level rise will only increase as people become affected by the economic consequences of climate change. I am fearful of trigger mechanisms that could escalate change rapidly as we are so unprepared for the consequences.

Protecting fisheries, marine life and our oceans in general is another challenge. Depletion of ocean biodiversity is extremely serious and combined with climate change, acidification and pollution, will have enormous impacts on humanity. A key challenge is to find ways to express the values of biodiversity and ecosystems, and in turn, argue effectively for their protection. Until we do that, political decisions and activities predicated on short-term interests will continue to prevail and industries will continue to justify their destruction of nature, including increased encroachment into protected areas.

How can these challenges be met?

With climate change, we must recognize that everything we have been doing so far has failed. This should spur us to start again with a blank slate. It is time for the world to take the bold step away from carbon trading and move towards carbon taxing which will have far greater benefits for biodiversity. And protecting biodiversity helps reduce growth in carbon emissions.

Part of the problem of deforestation lies in carbon trading schemes. In systems like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), there is protection for some forests, but in the developed world, systems of protecting valuable natural forests and shrub and grasslands are subject to other market pressures and contentious trading scheme rules that vary from country to country. We could have a world of monocultures meeting carbon trading requirements but this doesn’t help conserve biodiversity.

In conservation, the approach of Ecosystem-based Management is very valuable but the challenge is to convey how this relates to local communities, species and ecosystems. And we have to recognize that partnerships with local communities are absolutely essential for biodiversity protection.

Improving governance is key because poor governance undermines the best community efforts and can undermine policies already in place that might otherwise work. It’s not only about policies though; it’s also about monitoring, and commitment at all levels of government.

Markets drive policies, so there needs to be very real financial incentives and penalties for breaches of policy, including trade barriers.

To protect the oceans, we must address the rules beyond inshore fisheries to the outer edges of exclusive economic zones and the high seas. We don’t have an effective high seas regime to address many conservation threats, including mineral exploration, oil drilling, pollution and fishing where modern technology has outpaced past rules and agreements.

In addressing biodiversity loss, we have to continue the work of valuing biodiversity for its intrinsic worth and finding ways within the vast myriad of cultural approaches to promote the understanding of the interconnectedness between nature and economies and between nature and climate change.

Who are, or will be, the main players in conservation?

The major players will be markets, industry and consumers. National governments have a duty to ensure that good governance trickles outwards. Local governments and educational institutions will have a role to play in mainstreaming the valuation of biodiversity, and the media will continue to play a pivotal role in forming opinions and conveying accurate information.

What trends are you seeing?

We are witnessing increasing unemployment which is moving people away from a consumptive lifestyle but not necessarily changing their ethics. Women tend to remain as key implementers of conservation action, but men retain the reins of power and policy, which are often reactionary.

Tea Party–like politics of “drill, drill, drill”, “exploit, exploit, exploit”, have re-emerged as the fashionable policies of economies. It seems that the sense of urgency of the need for climate change action has actually diminished, and denial is extremely powerful.

In many ways it’s like the calm before the storm—people are continuing with business as usual with little real change unless personal circumstances such as unemployment dictate it.

The most positive trends are found in the widespread understanding of concepts like Ecosystem-based Management, biodiversity and sustainable development which was not there a decade ago. Now we have to entrench the concept of ecologically sustainable development and move swiftly to fi nd new ways to state measurements of prosperity.

One of the most diffi cult challenges is that even though we all have greater awareness, we are not moving from awareness, and even commitment, to real action. Action on the ground falls woefully short.

www.iucn.org/oceania

Fadi F Sharaiha, Chair of the Jordanian National Committee for IUCN and Executive Director of IUCN Member, The Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan

What do you see as the greatest conservation challenges in your region in the coming decade?

Conflict and war—or potential war—in the Middle East and North Africa region is a clear threat and we have already witnessed the impact on the environment in Lebanon and Gaza. Climate change is another significant challenge for the region, and specifically Jordan, as it contributes to water scarcity in a country which is already the third poorest in the world in terms of water availability. Climate change is expected to become even more serious in the years to come, affecting our Red Sea corals for example. Related to water and energy issues is the challenge of economic development in the region. Investment and development are taking over in key areas of Jordan and hampering conservation efforts.

How can these challenges be met?

There is a need to build partnerships between environmental organizations and decision makers in national and local government, as well as the private sector. We must work together to recognize the threats and find solutions to them. IUCN is an extremely important organization in this regard and can help develop strategic plans for the region. We should consider different perspectives and see how we can continue to raise awareness among local communities. We talk about “reduce, reuse, recycle”, but not everyone grasps how to really reduce the consumption of water or energy. International bodies, such as IUCN, can also help raise greater awareness of eco-labelling.

Who are, or will be, the main players in conservation?

The main players in conservation are the Ministry of Environment, local government agencies, together with civil society organizations, the Jordanian National Committee for IUCN and NGOs. The Environment Commission of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) in Jordan could also play a signifi cant role and the IUCN Regional Office for West Asia will continue to be a key player in the wider region.

We need to build more partnerships with the private sector. We need to talk to them, not talk about them, explaining why it is important to protect biodiversity and how. In Jordan businesses rely on forests, coral reefs and other natural resources but they need to understand how biodiversity supports their businesses and that they should therefore invest in it.

What trends are you seeing?

There is greater investment in the country and new business emerging, but this investment is putting pressure on water and energy resources and in turn on biodiversity and conservation efforts, requiring increased efforts, for example, in marine conservation.

More people seem aware of environmental challenges, young people in particular. There is greater access to information on environmental issues via the Internet, and as private schools compete for students they are starting to build this into their curricula. Civil society is educating young people about their rights and responsibilities.

The Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan (JREDS) is very active, for example recently leading an initiative in Aqaba, on the Red Sea, involving 5,000 people in coral planting, cleaning beaches and introducing international standards and solutions to local issues. We are working on several initiatives such as environmental education, Green Key tourism, the Blue Flag programme and ecoschools with all sectors of society, tackling key issues together.

The Jordanian National Committee for IUCN is playing a major role in both advocacy and in the monitoring of national environmental regulations, for example working with the government on new forest legislation. There are some exciting projects in the pipeline including running training sessions on how to produce environmental Public Service Announcements for television, encouraging those working in the media to cover more conservation issues, and then getting these onto national television.

www.jreds.org
www.iucn.org/westasia

Sébastien Moncorps, Director of the French Committee for IUCN

What do you see as the greatest conservation challenges in your region in the coming decade?

We need to shift from a biodiversity conservation strategy focused on species and habitats to a global strategy for the whole spectrum of life, based on the preservation of the dynamics of ecosystems, their resilience, their connectivity and all the services they offer. This means pursuing our efforts on the protection of threatened species and the development of a larger network of protected areas. But our main challenge is to mainstream biodiversity conservation into all policies and projects, in particular policies of agriculture, fisheries, spatial planning and energy. In France, we need to pay special attention to the sea and our overseas territories. We have the second largest maritime domain in the world and our overseas territories are nearly all located in biodiversity hotspots.

How can these challenges be met?

Conserving the web of life will only be achieved if we succeed in reducing the different pressures caused by human activity on our environment. All policies should integrate biodiversity as a priority, to avoid further degradation and compensate loss, and we need to recognize the opportunities this presents.

Everyone should be aware that biodiversity is everywhere, from undisturbed and well preserved natural sites to urban areas. We all depend on biodiversity, and its degradation will affect our economy and quality of life. The IUCN French Committee is playing a key role in the development of a new French Biodiversity Strategy that will help address this challenge in the coming years.

Who are, or will be, the main players in conservation?

France is seeing the growing involvement of local government and business in conservation. The role of NGOs is still crucial and has been reinforced with their involvement in a multi-stakeholder forum on the environment, established by the President of France, called the “Grenelle de l’Environnement”.

After climate change and pollution, biodiversity issues are increasingly recognized and understood to be a priority for society, but there’s still a long way to go. That’s why the IUCN French Committee and its Members have launched a national campaign called “Biodiversity, it’s my nature” to raise public awareness of biodiversity, as well as train private sector employees on biodiversity issues.

The IUCN French Committee is infl uencing policies such as national biodiversity and protected area strategies, improving knowledge of biodiversity such as through the French Red List of threatened species and a global survey of biodiversity in French overseas territories. It is supporting NGO projects in African francophone countries through the Small Grants Fund Programme, under the French Global Environment Facility. We are supporting some 80 projects in more than 30 countries, implementing concrete action in the fi eld and empowering local NGOs so they can become new conservation leaders in their countries.

www.uicn.fr
www.iucn.org/europe

Interviews compiled by Nicole Gooderson, Communications Officer, IUCN Constituency Support Group and Helen Pippard, Species & Membership Officer, IUCN Regional Office for Oceania.

For more information on IUCN Members, National and Regional Committees visit www.iucn.org/members