Today we celebrate World Environment Day — a moment for the conservation community to take a deep, collective breath as we power towards the Rio+20 conference and onwards to the IUCN World Conservation Congress, writes IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre.
I myself am celebrating World Environment Day in Korea with our Members and many friends here, all hard at work at ensuring that our Jeju Congress will be a great success.
In two weeks’ time, the international community will gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development which will mark 20 years since the watershed Rio Earth Summit.
IUCN has historically contributed to the Rio process. In preparation for the Rio Earth Summit, IUCN published a strategy called Caring for the Earth, which served as the basis for international environmental policy.
IUCN was behind the creation of one of the three so-called Rio Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity, which today has nearly universal participation.
Ten years ago in Johannesburg, at the 10th anniversary of Rio, IUCN promoted the idea of partnerships for sustainable development and led the effort to “green the Summit”.
So what are we planning to do this time around?
Our big message to the Rio+20 Conference is, quite simply, ‘invest in nature’.
Nature can and does provide solutions to development challenges such as climate change, and food, water and energy security.
That is why IUCN has chosen Nature+ as the slogan of its 2012 Congress, which will be the first major event to implement the Rio outcomes.
IUCN supports a green economy that places nature at its centre and adopts measures that ensure equity. It is time governments included nature in development strategies.
For example, achieving the internationally agreed goals — known as the Aichi Targets — to stop biodiversity loss by 2020 would be a considerable step forward towards a green economy and sustainable development.
The UN Secretary-General has called for the restoration and enhancement of natural capital as one of the key ways to achieve green economy.
IUCN believes that forests represent low-hanging fruit to generate sustainable growth and improve the way we manage our natural wealth.
Last year, IUCN and partners — governments and NGOs — launched the so-called Bonn Challenge — a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of degraded forest lands by 2020.
Our analysis shows that achieving this target would generate approximately US$ 50 billion annually in net benefits — providing direct additional income to some 1.6 billion people who depend on forests. It would also help cut greenhouse gas emissions and avoid runaway climate change.
Some countries have already committed to restore their natural capital. In Rio, we are hoping to announce other nations joining this global effort as a way to make sustainable development a reality.
We believe that such tangible action is what the world needs most from Rio.
And we look forward to helping turn the Rio dream into reality at our own Congress in three months’ time.