Fifty shades of green?

A quick walk around the venue of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris leaves the impression that “solutions based in nature” are definitely in the focus of the negotiations. Not to mention the prominent display of a veritable Noah’s Ark of life-size cut-outs of the world’s wildlife. This is vastly different from the way it used to be a few years ago, when there were scant references to the role of nature or ecosystems in either mitigation or adaptation discussions. It's a credit to the efforts of many of you involved in nature conservation and the interface with climate change to have pushed the debate to encompass nature-based solutions in many forms.

Julia Miranda Londoño, Trevor Sandwith, and Kathy MacKinnon

In the protected areas community, we would push for an even deeper recognition, given that it is nature itself which is instrumental in addressing mitigation (through sequestration and storage of carbon in natural ecosystems) and adaptation, through maintaining ecosystem functions essential for life on earth and for human survival. For us, these solutions are not only based on nature….they are nature itself at work, i.e. natural solutions. They are also highly contingent on ecosystems being effectively managed and equitably governed, for without a guarantee that institutions and communities involved with protected and conserved areas are able to secure the long-term maintenance of ecosystem structure and function, the mitigation and adaptation benefits are likely to be reduced.  

It was therefore a great occasion for IUCN and IUCN WCPA to host a special side event in the IUCN Nature-Based Solutions Pavilion in the so-called Blue Zone of the COP21 on Putting protected areas to work to achieve climate stability and sustainable development. Chaired by Dr Kathy MacKinnon, WCPA Chair, it involves a global cross-section of views from Julia Miranda Londoño (Director General of Colombian National Natural Parks Agency), Dr Nguyen Trung Thang (Vietnam Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment), Melanie Heath (Director of Science, Policy and Information for BirdLife International), Mr Keobel Sakuma (Senior Advisor in the Office of the President of Palau), and Michele Andrianarisata (Co-Chair of the Groupe Technique pour le Changement Climatique in Madagascar).   While recognising the impacts that climate change has on protected areas, the focus of the discussion was much more about how protected areas can become part of the solution through the manner in which systems of protected areas are planned and managed to maintain their ecosystem functions. It also addressed the way in which protected area systems and their management agencies could embed their work within the overall strategies for addressing climate change at a national or regional level. Here, connections were made with ways of dealing with such essential functions as disaster-risk reduction, food and water security, health and well-being, and also the maintenance of peace and security.  

There were two big surprises. Halfway through, the Colombian Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr Gabriel Valleja Córtez,  joined the discussion, putting on the table Colombia’s commitment to add 2.5 million hectares of new terrestrial and marine protected areas as part of Colombia’s Intended National Contributions. He went much further to indicate how valuable protected and conserved areas are as a foundation for Colombia’s development sustainability, and also to indicate the crucial role that the development of these protected areas would play in achieving peace and stability as the country moves towards peace after the past 50 years of civil war. New jobs in restoration and conservation management and tourism by communities would be a major feature of efforts to replace the illegal production and trafficking of narcotics.  

The other surprise came from Palau, where Keobel Sakuma recorded that Palau had lived up to the promise it made at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 in Sydney, one year ago, to commit 100% of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone as a marine protected area. Not content with simply meeting global conservation targets, Palau has sent a powerful signal to the world that it will invest in sustainable management of its entire marine area and transition from unsustainable fisheries practices to those that can be replenished naturally and that can support domestic consumption including for an expanded tourism industry.  

Summing up, Trevor Sandwith, Director of IUCN Global Protected Areas Programme reflected on the win-win approaches being adopted by countries leading the way in nature-based solutions for the climate crisis. In his words “It is not simply a choice of a development or conservation option, but the way of finding a serendipitous investment in nature at the heart of sustainability: peace that leads to environmental security, and environmental security that sustains peace. Natural ecosystems that reduce the rate of climate change, that confer greater adaptive capacity and ensure ecosystem and community resilience to climate change”.  

Redparques Declaration  

The official launch of the Redparques Declaration was made by the Minister of Peru Mr. Manuel Vidal, representing the Regional Coordination of the network held by the Natural Protected Areas Service from Peru - SERNANP.   The 18 countries countries that adopt the Redparques Declaration offer to intensify and improve the establishment, management and design of protected areas according to climate change criteria, and call for the recognition, in the UN climate regime’s discussions and commitments, of protected areas as effective strategies to face climate change.

African Solutions   GPAP, jointly with GMPP and funded under the IUCN-French Partnership Agreement, produced a publication on “African protected area solutions to climate change” as part of the Panorama initiative, which was launched at the UNFCCC COP. A total of four side events were hosted, where solution case studies from the publication were presented by their owners.    

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Work area: 
Climate Change
UNFCCC
UNFCCC
Protected Areas
Location: 
Global
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