Day three of the climate change conference in Cancún saw the launch of the Spanish version of the book Natural Solutions, writes Pascal Girot from IUCN Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Initiative.
Protected areas have been a cornerstone of the implementation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in particular through its programme of work on protected areas (PoWPA). The linkages and synergies between the objectives of the CBD and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have increased in relevance over the past years. In this context, protected areas offer opportunities to achieve objectives both in terms of in-situ conservation and in terms of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The book Natural Solutions is a timely contribution to this debate, as it offers concrete examples from around the world on how protected areas can provide cost effective options to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Protected areas are an essential part of the global response to climate change. They are helping address the cause of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They are helping society cope with climate change impacts by maintaining essential services upon which people depend. Without them, the challenges would be even greater, and their strengthening will yield one of the most powerful natural solutions to the climate crisis.
The book provides convincing arguments on how protected areas can contribute to the two main responses to climate change. For instance as a potential means for mitigation, Protected areas can store carbon, preventing the loss of terrestrial carbon already present in vegetation and soils. They also provide opportunities for mitigation as they help sequester further carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in natural ecosystems.
In adaptation, protected areas help preserve ecosystem integrity, buffer local climate, reduce risks and impacts from extreme events such as storms, droughts and sea-level rise. Protected areas also maintain essential ecosystem services that help people cope with changes in water supplies, fisheries, disease and agricultural productivity caused by climate change.
Opportunities to use protected areas in climate response strategies need to be prioritised by national and local government. At a global level, the CBD's Programme of Work on Protected Areas should be deployed as a major climate change mitigation and adaptation tool. The role of protected areas as part of national strategies for supporting climate change adaptation and mitigation should also be recognised by the UNFCCC. Latin America and the Caribbean is a biodiversity powerhouse, as it has probably the greatest mitigation potential in the world. This explains the importance of having launched a Spanish version of the book Natural Solutions in Mexico, during the UNFCCC COP 16 in Cancún.
Natural Solutions is the result of a collaboration between a large number of institutions including IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), The World Bank, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).