No more bad COP, time for good COP: IUCN Opening Statement to UN climate change meeting

28 November 2011 | IUCN statement

Durban, South Africa, 28 November 2011 (IUCN) – Governments cannot ignore the immediate and effective role that nature plays in stemming the impacts of climate change, says IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). 

Among the key issues at the UN’s Climate Change Summit are how to make the best use of nature-based solutions in reducing harmful climate change impacts that will complement the urgent action that governments must take in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Ecosystem- based adaptation is a cost effective, no-regrets solution that governments ought to incorporate into national policies and take immediate action to implement on the ground,” says Stewart Maginnis, Director of IUCN's Environment and Development Group. “Improving the management of river systems, coral reefs, mangroves and forests all tangibly improve the resilience of people’s livelihoods as they deal with the sudden and long-term consequences of climate change.” 

There is evidence that appropriate management of nature helps to reduce the vulnerability of people to the threats posed by climate change. Protecting natural ecosystems also helps to slow the rate of climate change by capturing and storing large amounts of carbon.

“Investments and commitments made by governments to conserve biodiversity in intact ecosystems, including through protected areas, is a win-win solution that is cost-effective and applicable where it really matters at a local level by indigenous peoples, local communities, and especially women,” says Trevor Sandwith, Director of IUCN’s Global Protected Areas Programme.

The most advanced of such options is a forest-based protection programme to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, known as REDD+. We must accelerate the implementation of an environmentally sound and socially equitable REDD+ mechanism at a national level, IUCN says.  The industrialized world needs to remove bottlenecks that are currently holding up the flow of promised resources, and tropical countries need to seize this moment to strengthen and—above all—avoid weakening existing legislation and policies that will enable fast start action on REDD+.

Forests are not the only natural systems that offer governments practical nature-based options in the fight against climate change. Protection of coastal and marine ecosystems as well as the world’s grasslands and drylands, are crucial elements for conserving carbon and maintaining the resources upon which millions of people depend on daily for water, food and safety.

“People often don’t realize just how effective nature can be in tackling the effects of climate change,” says Edmund Barrow, Head of IUCN’s Ecosystem Management Programme. “The challenge is to find the most appropriate and sustainable ways to manage and use these resources. Intact coastal ecosystems offer a double benefit in the face of climate change - not only do they  protect communities from inevitable sea level rise and storm surges, but healthy coastal systems also capture and store huge amounts of carbon.”

For more information please contact:
• Brian Thomson, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 721 8326, e brian.thomson@iucn.org
• Daniel Shaw, Communications Officer, t +41 22 999 0168, e daniel.shaw@iucn.org
• Maggie Roth, IUCN Media Relations, m +1 202 262 5313, e maggie.roth@iucn.org