Protected areas – natural solutions to climate change crisis

Copenhagen, Denmark, 8 December 2009 –  Protected Areas offer a cost effective solution to the impacts of climate change, according to a new book from IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, the United Nations Development Programme, Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Bank and WWF.

Green heron (Butorides striatus) among mangrove roots, Sri Lanka.

This book, 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 and what’s needed for them to achieve even more,” says Lord Nicholas Stern, who wrote a foreword for the report. 

Protected areas play a major role in reducing climate changing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Fifteen percent of the world’s terrestrial carbon stock - 312 Gigatonnes - are stored in protected areas around the world. 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. In the Brazilian Amazon, protected lands are expected to prevent 670,000 km² of deforestation by 2050, representing 8 billion tons of avoided carbon emissions.

Protected areas also serve as natural buffers against climate impacts and other disasters, providing space for floodwaters to disperse, stabilizing soil against landslides and blocking storm surges. It has been estimated that coastal wetlands in the United States provide $23.2 billion a year in protection against flooding from hurricanes.

And protected areas can keep natural resources healthy and productive so they can withstand the impacts of climate change and continue to provide the food, clean water, shelter and income communities rely upon for survival. Thirty three of the world’s 100 largest cities derive their drinking water from catchments within forest protected areas.

The living conditions of rural communities, whose livelihoods are already threatened by climate change, will significantly worsen without immediate action” said Veerle Vanderweerd, Director of UNDP’s Energy and Environment group.

Actually, expanding protected area coverage and involving indigenous and local communities in these efforts could be one of the most effective ways to reinforce nature and peoples resilience to climate change” said The Nature Conservancy’s Trevor Sandwith, who is also Deputy Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

"Ecosystem-based adaptation measures can provide cost effective and proven alternatives to costly infrastructure as countries and communities struggle to address the environmental consequences of climate change and more extreme weather events" said Michele de Nevers, Senior Manager at the World Bank’s Environment Department.

As climate negotiations unroll in Copenhagen and with the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity just around the corner, maintaining and expanding protected areas needs to be recognized in both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biodiversity as a powerful tool against climate change and should be a component of national climate change strategies.

But despite their value for both adaptation and mitigation to climate change, financial support to the global protected areas network is less than half what is needed for maximum efficiency, placing the system at risk.
World leaders need to understand that investing in protected areas is an investment in the security of their communities.

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.”

Download the report at:

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

Pia Drzewinski, IUCN, +41 76 505 8865 (Copenhagen), +41 22 999 0313 (Switzerland) ,

Karen Foerstel, The Nature Conservancy, +44 788 911 9030 (in Copenhagen), +917-652-2642 (in US),

Ashwini Prahba, WWF, +41 79 874 1682,

Stanislav Saling: United Nations Development Programme; International cell phone: + + 1 917 346 1955; Copenhagen cell phone: +45 23 84 78 27;


Work area: 
Climate Change
Protected Areas
Protected Areas
Climate Change
Climate Change
Climate Change
North America
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