The Rio Conventions Pavilion at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s COP 11 in Hyderabad, India was dedicated to protected areas and their contribution to conservation on October 10th during the first week of the conference. The theme of the day, “Natural Solutions: Protected Areas Meeting Biodiversity Targets and Adapting to Global Climate Change” had four panel sessions, including: working towards the Aichi Targets – how PAs contribute; PAs as natural solutions to climate change and other global challenges, PAs for marine conservation, blue carbon and sustainable fisheries; and opportunities for mainstreaming PAs into policies and programmes.
The well-attended daylong event was organized by IUCN WCPA and the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Lifeweb Initiative, and was moderated by WCPA Deputy Chair Kathy Mackinnon. Speakers from a full range of protected areas stakeholders, including several active WCPA members, participated, as well as government representatives, protected area agencies, international organizations, the CBD Secretariat, development agencies and NGOs. The day concluded with a cocktail event to launch the second phase of the CBD LifeWeb Initiative, and was opened by CBD Executive Secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias.
Meeting the target pertaining to protected areas of the CBD’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets – Target 11 – with its diversity of challenges, was discussed throughout the day. There was keen interest in a presentation on work being done by a joint IUCN WCPA-SSC (Species Survival Commission) task force to determine how well the current protected area system is capturing and maintaining biodiversity.
Making the case for an expanded protected area system will require conservationists to put much greater emphasis on the multiple social and economic benefits that protected areas can provide – benefits beyond biodiversity. This was a recurring theme in the three latter sessions during the day, which brought together case studies from around the world, including Botswana, Canada, Colombia, India, Madagascar and the Pacific. The key role of marine protected areas in storing and sequestering carbon and supporting sustainable fisheries was also emphasized. In the lead up to the World Parks Congress in Sydney in 2014, the livelihood and ecosystem benefits of protected areas is likely to continue to play an even larger role in conservation efforts, highlighting their relevance to all sectors of society.
One of the “hot” topics at the COP – the need to mobilize greater financial resources to implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity – was also discussed during the day. With the debate between developing countries needing greater resources and donor countries concerned about their international commitments and weakening economies at home gaining prominence, Kathy MacKinnon suggested that expansion of protected areas to meet Target 11 for a more representative and well-managed global terrestrial protected area system could be in the order of $47-65 billion annually. Given the substantial benefits that protected areas provide in supplying food, regular and clean water supplies, coastal protection and sustainable fisheries, and disaster risk reduction, it was suggested that the conservation community needs to get much better at valuing protected area systems and advertising their role in promoting human welfare.
“Protected Areas Day was another successful collaboration between IUCN WCPA and Lifeweb,” said Kathy Mackinnon. “The day was extremely well-attended by country delegations and others, which shows again how important people believe protected areas are.”