Natural solutions to global issues

13.10.11. This is my first UNCCD Conference and I’m struck by how different it is from Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meetings yet how many of the same issues keep coming up, writes Kathy MacKinnon of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas.

Kathy Mackinnon, WCPA CBD Vice Chair Photo: Kathy Mackinnon

This is a key challenge for the global community, how to better strengthen the synergies between the three Rio Conventions: United Nations Conventions to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Biodiversity (CBD). Here at the Desertification conference, the Rio Conventions Pavilion is trying to do just that, hosting a series of events which explore these links covering topics as diverse as sustainable forest, land and water management, new funding mechanisms and specific programmes to address desertification. The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) has been a partner in the Pavilion since the concept was launched at the last CBD Conference in Nagoya where we hosted an event highlighting the values of protected areas in helping people to cope with climate change.

Here at Changwon we’re again reiterating that theme—how protected areas are useful Natural Solutions for meeting the objectives of all three conventions. Our side event on Dryland Protected Areas: Ecosystem-based approaches to Climate Change and Desertification included a range of presentations that emphasized the role that protected areas can play in addressing these global challenges. Case studies from Kenya, South Pacific, South Africa, Madagascar, Iran and the host nation Korea illustrated how conservation initiatives, whether state-run or community-managed, lead to more sustainable land management with benefits for people, biodiversity and the ecosystem services on which we all depend. Many of the case studies and panel debate focused on how best to engage communities in conservation initiatives under a range of governance and management arrangements to better maintain fragile dryland ecosystems both within and beyond protected areas.

The Protected Areas Programme of Work is one of the most successful programmes under the CBD but now we need to get better recognition of the value of maintaining natural ecosystems into the policies and programmes that underpin the other Rio conventions. Countries agreed at Nagoya to increase the global coverage of protected areas to at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water habitats (up from 12.7%) and 10% of marine areas (up from just over 1% currently). Globally 9% of drylands are already in protected areas but much more needs to be done to ensure ecological representation, and effective and equitable management. Protected areas are the cornerstones of biodiversity conservation but generating support for more conservation areas will require stronger social and economic arguments to engender the political support to move fine words to effective action. To help raise awareness the WCPA is launching a series of short pamphlets, the Natural Solutions series highlighting the multiple goods and services that protected areas provide in addition to biodiversity conservation. Natural Solutions: Protected areas helping people to deal with desertification and drought was launched here at Changwon and is available on the IUCN/WCPA website.

Interestingly our event was followed by a workshop organized by the Global Mechanism, the funding mechanism for the UNCCD, on economic valuation of drylands goods and services and the cost to countries of desertification and land degradation. This study is only just getting underway but hopefully will provide further economic evidence that good land management and conservation of natural habitats makes good sense. For too long ecosystem services have been regarded as “free goods” rarely, if ever, acknowledged in national accounting. While climate change increases the threats to biodiversity it also provides a unique opportunity to re-emphasize the multiple values of protected areas and the ecosystem services that they provide. Promoting ecosystem-based approaches to climate change and other global environmental issues is a cost effective, proven and achievable way to meet the targets of all three of the Rio Conventions.

Work area: 
Protected Areas
Protected Areas
North America
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