Natural Ecosystems and Protected areas – Convenient Solutions to the Climate Change Crisis

World decision makers are paying inadequate attention to one of the strongest global tools in combating climate change says a consortium of powerful international environmental organisations.

Natural Solutions Photo:

Nagoya, Japan, 19 October 2010 – 3.30 pm

“In the rush for ‘new’ solutions to climate change, we are in danger of neglecting a proven alternative” says Alexander Belokurov, Landscape Conservation Manager of WWF International “Protected areas are an investment which societies have made for a millennia, using traditional approaches which have proven their potential and effectiveness in modern times.”

Natural Ecosystems, especially Protected Areas, offer proven and cost effective solutions to the impacts of climate change, according to two publications released by the World Bank and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) of IUCN with its partners The Nature Conservancy, the UNDP, Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Bank and WWF.

The two reports are Convenient Solutions to an Inconvenient Truth: Ecosystem-based approaches to Climate Change and Natural Solutions: Protected Areas Helping People Cope with Climate Change.

The reports’ authors argue that natural ecosystems hold vast amounts of carbon, and that effectively managed protected areas are a good way of maintaining those carbon stores and reducing our vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Improved protection and management of natural habitats protects carbon stores and the biological resources and ecosystem services on which human lives and livelihoods depend. Such ecosystem-based approaches should be integrated into national strategies to address climate change and complement investments in cleaner energy and infrastructure.

Nature’s role in Mitigation Terrestrial and marine ecosystems play a significant role in the global carbon cycle, storing and sequestering atmospheric carbon. Fifteen percent of the world’s terrestrial carbon stock - 312 Gigatonnes - is stored in the forests, grasslands, mangroves, seagrass beds and other natural ecosystems in protected areas around the world.

In Canada, over 4,000 million tons of carbon dioxide is sequestered in 39 national parks, estimated to be worth $39-87 billion in carbon credits. In the Brazilian Amazon, protected lands, including state parks and indigenous reserves, are expected to prevent 670,000 km² of deforestation by 2050, representing 8 billion tons of avoided carbon emissions.

Nature’s Role in Adaptation Natural ecosystems and protected areas also serve as natural buffers against climate impacts and other disasters, providing coastal protection, regulating water flow and flood dispersal, stabilizing soil against landslides and blocking storm surges. The value of coastal wetlands in the United States in providing protection against storm surges and hurricanes is estimated at US$23.2 billion a year From Honduras to Vietnam, and India to Myanmar and Indonesia, healthy mangrove ecosystems have demonstrated their value in protecting local communities from cyclone and tsunamis.

Forests, grasslands, wetlands, marine and other natural systems provide a range of goods and services often not recognised in national economic accounts but vital to human welfare: clean water, fisheries, agrobiodiversity, food, shelter and sources of income for vulnerable communities. Thirty three of the world’s 105 largest cities derive their drinking water from catchments within forest protected areas. How well these services are maintained will depend on effective management, appropriate governance mechanisms and adequate financial support. Currently financial support to the global protected areas network is estimated at less than half of what is needed for maximum efficiency.

Speaking for the consortium Nik Lopoukine, Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, said “The role of natural ecosystems and protected areas need to be recognized in both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biodiversity as powerful tools to increase resilience to climate change. Investing in improved management of natural habitats and protected areas is an investment in proven, green solutions to address climate change and to ensure the security of vulnerable communities”.

Quotes on the Reports

Convenient Solutions to an Inconvenient Truth: Ecosystem-based approaches to Climate Change. “Protection and sound management of natural ecosystems maintain carbon sinks and provide natural solutions that enable societies to adapt to climate change”. Warren Evans, Director, Environment Department, The World Bank.

“Development agencies, countries and the Conventions on Biological Diversity and Climate Change need to recognise that conserving and restoring ecosystems is a cost-effective and socially responsible approach to both mitigating and adapting to climate change, while providing communities with the ecosystem services essential for human welfare”. Dr Robert Watson, C.B.E, Chief Scientific Advisor, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, U.K.

Natural solutions: protected areas helping people cope with climate change

“Natural solutions: protected areas helping people cope with climate change, clearly articulates for the first time how protected areas contribute significantly to reducing the impacts of climate change,” says Lord Nicholas Stern, who wrote a foreword for the report.

The living conditions of rural communities, whose livelihoods are already threatened by climate change, will significantly worsen without immediate action” said Nik Sekhran, Head of UNDP’s Biodiversity and Ecosystem Programme.

For more information or to set up interviews at Nagoya, please contact:

Nik Lopoukhine, Chair IUCNWCPA, email:
Trevor Sandwith, Head of Protected Areas Programme, IUCN, email:
Nigel Dudley, Vice Chair WCPA, email: nigel@equilibriumrese...
Kathy MacKinnon, Vice Chair WCPA email: kathy.s.mackinnon@gma...
Penny Figgis, Vice Chair, WCPA, email: penelope.figgis@ozema...,

About IUCN IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.

The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) is the world's premier network of protected area expertise with over 1,400 members. WCPA helps governments and others plan protected areas and integrate them into all sectors; provides strategic advice to policy makers; strengthens capacity and investment in protected areas; and convenes the diverse constituency of protected area stakeholders to address challenging issues. For more than 50 years, IUCN and WCPA have been at the forefront of global action on protected areas and more recently positioning protected areas as part of a "natural solution" to climate change.

About The Nature Conservancy The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have helped protect 130 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

About WWF WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

About the United Nations Development Programme: UNDP is the UN's global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP is on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges.

About the Wildlife Conservation Society WCS was founded in 1985, has the clear mission to save wildlife and wild places across the globe and currently manages about 500 conservation projects in more than 60 countries. With a commitment to protect 25 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, WCS aims to address four of the biggest issues facing wildlife and wild places: climate change, natural resource exploitation; the connection between wildlife health and human health; and the sustainable development of human livelihoods.

Work area: 
Protected Areas
Protected Areas
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