See you in Jeju!

10 July 2012 | News story

1 August 2012. With just over a month to go, the final touches are being put to the IUCN Congress – the event that will show the world how to achieve sustainable development with nature at its core.

In our previous Congress previews, we’ve looked at how biodiversity is critical to all aspects of our life and how to make sure the benefits of nature are shared fairly and equally. This month we examine the third of the Congress themes — natural solutions to global challenges.

Global production and consumption patterns are destroying nature — our life support system. Meanwhile, governments, the private sector and communities are under-using the power of nature to provide solutions to global challenges such as climate change, food security, and social and economic development. We call these nature-based solutions and they’re a key focus of IUCN’s work.

The world economy has grown significantly in recent decades but the benefits of this growth have been uneven. There has been a drastic rise in social inequality and environmental degradation — a direct result of the pursuit of unsustainable management of the Earth’s natural wealth.

IUCN wants to see a rapid transition to a green economy, one that recognises the fundamental dependence of human well-being on nature and the critical benefits and services it provides. Healthy ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and river basins play a major role in supporting local livelihoods as well as providing investment opportunities.

For societies around the world to flourish, they must develop in a sustainable way that gives nature a central role.

Let’s take climate change for example. Over time, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing up to 20% of global GDP each year, while the costs of action now can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year by investing in nature.

Forests, wetlands and coral reefs not only absorb carbon, but also help protect us and our sources of income from climate change impacts. Healthy mangroves reduce the impact of coastal storms while providing food and income to millions of people.

And on the subject of food security, what grows in the wild – a huge range of species including vegetables, fruits, nuts, bushmeat, birds, and fish — is just as important as what grows on farms. More than 275 million people depend on coral reefs for food, coastal protection and livelihoods. Globally, coral reef fisheries are worth US$ 6.8 billion annually. But loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems is undermining our food production, health, livelihoods, and the availability of clean water.

At the IUCN Congress, our Members will come together to take the joint decisions that will shape the global conservation agenda for the next four years. With progress on sustainable development lamentably slow, the Congress will showcase the knowledge and tools we need to put commitments into action. There can be no more excuses.