Protected Areas – a natural solution to climate change crisis

Protected areas offer a cost effective solution to the impacts of climate change, according to a report just released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Ravilevu Nature Reserve, Taveuni, Fiji.

The book, ‘Natural Solutions: protected areas helping to cope with climate change’ for the first time articulates clearly how protected areas contribute significantly to reducing the impacts of climate change, says Lord Nicholas Stern, who wrote the foreword of the report.

In the Pacific, a number of Pacific Island countries have taken a lead role in protecting their marine resources. This work is spearheaded by the international environment conservation group, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

In 2006, Palau, through the Micronesia Challenge made a commitment to effectively conserve 30 percent of its near-shore marine and 20 percent of its terrestrial resources by the year 2020. Kiribati followed with its commitment in the same year to declare the Phoenix Islands as a protected area, creating the world’s third largest Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Fiji, on the other hand, in 2005, committed to establish a network of marine protected areas in 30 percent of waters to secure national livelihoods and incomes.

Speaking to the Pacific Communications Team here in Copenhagen, Trevor Sandwith of Nature Conservancy said, IUCN and Nature Conservancy are working with local communities in a number of islands in Micronesia and Solomon Islands to conserve their resources through protected areas.

“In these islands, dependency on marine resources is great. People depend on the coastal ecosystem for their livelihoods, in some cases, 100 percent of their protein comes from those resources.

“If we can imagine that coral reefs will be degraded by warming water or ocean acidification, we can see millions of livelihoods of people put at risk.

Mr Sandwith said people need to modify their consumption of their resources in order to maximise productivity for the future.

This will need a partnership between the scientific community, the government and local communities.

“Local knowledge and stewardship combined with scientific knowledge is important in protecting resources.

“We are working with some governments in the Pacific to try and bring this knowledge into national adaptation plans.

“It’s very good to see national governments bringing indigenous people and local community leaders to be part of their delegation, acknowledging the importance of local knowledge, Mr Sandwith said.

Protected areas play a major role in reducing climate change carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. 15 percent of the world’s terrestrial carbon stock is stored in the protected areas around the globe.

In Canada, over 4 billion tons of carbon dioxide is sequestered in 39 national parks, estimated to be worth $39 - $87 billion in carbon credits.

Papua New Guinea, in the Pacific has been vigorously pursuing a proposed new mechanism within a new climate change deal to Reduce Carbon Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). This new imitative calls for preservation of forests to be sold as carbon credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions of developed nations.

Written by Makereta Komai, Pacific Communications Team in Copenhagen


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