What kind of world do we want to see?

These were the words which launched the IUCN World Conservation Congress today in Barcelona. The ceremony, graced by royalty, Nobel Prize winners and political leaders, opened with an urgent call for the world to change course.

IUCN World Conservation Congress Opening Ceremony. 5 Oct 2008

An audience of thousands including HRH Felipe, Prince of Asturias and HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, and delegations from 177 countries were treated to dramatic images of nature, aerial acrobats, stirring music and a line-up of prominent and compelling speakers.

With IUCN celebrating its 60th anniversary today, the opening ceremony was also an opportunity to reflect on 60 years of conservation and look ahead to the next 60.

IUCN’s President Valli Moosa outlined the urgency with which the world needs to act to make the transition to sustainability and said the environmental community must provide leadership.

“I believe we have the power to change the world,” he said and spoke of “releasing the world’s potential” in the coming days in saving nature—the “lifeblood” of humanity. “Conservation needs to be everyone’s business and put at the heart of all sectors of society. “The environment needs to be part of the DNA of all private enterprises”.

Also among the speakers was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus. “This is our planet, this is our home, it is our responsibility to make it more beautiful, if we take this as out mission the world will be a different place,” he said.

The ceremony paves the way for 10 days of debate by governments, academics, scientists, business leaders, indigenous peoples and philanthropists about how to safeguard the natural world—how to meet the growing needs of populations and expanding markets without sacrificing nature. They will seek new ways of responding to the rapid loss of biodiversity as highlighted by the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, to be released tomorrow.

The Congress brings together 8,000 leaders from governments, business and non-governmental organizations for what is the premier summit on sustainable development in 2008. It focuses on three key challenges: how to tackle climate change, how to safeguard the diversity of life in all its forms, and how to make sound environmental management the foundation of healthy people and economies.

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