Sprint to the finish

It may have been the last day of the forum at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, but it was by no means the least. If anything, things got even busier as delegates rushed to make the most of the final hours of the forum.

Sprint to the finish (IUCN World Conservation Congress 2008) Photo: IUCN/Group J. Muntaner

The Spanish fishing federation CEPESCA and IUCN signed a co-operation agreement to work together on the problems facing the industry including issues such as biodiversity and sustainable use.

“This is the first time in the history of the Spanish industry that a fishing organization is signing a co-operation agreement with a conservation organization like IUCN,” said Javier Garat, Secretary General of CEPESCA. “We want to show that we are ready to talk to the conservation movement.”

Geo-engineering in our oceans was hotly debated by industry, an oceanographer, a lawyer and an economist at a session chaired by the BBC’s David Shukman. Margaret Leinen, Chief Scientist at the company Climos, argued that science shows there were times in the Earth’s past that the oceans were more productive than they are today and may have sequestered more carbon.

David Santillo, Senior Scientist at Greenpeace, on the other hand, argued that any decision to proceed to ever bigger open ocean ‘experiments’ cannot be justified by the possible gains in scientific knowledge which may result.

Meanwhile, the last Sustainability Dialogue took place. It explored how religious and spiritual traditions support conservation. Panelists, including Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, former Vice-President of Iran, and Bishop Geoffrey Davis, of South Africa, discussed how all religious and spiritual traditions have something significant to say about our relationship with nature.

In a similar vein, Buddhist Monks presented their sacred garden at the Congress, which they say brings science, spirituality and conservation together. The Sakya Tashi Ling Buddist Monks, who have been IUCN members for 15 years, say their garden unites two different visions – modern conversation science and the Buddhist mind science – to encourage a new way to see the world.

Moving swiftly from Buddhism to biofuels, IUCN, WWF, the World Bank and The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels launched biofuels scorecards. The cards contain 12 principles and criteria for sustainable biofuel production, covering rural development, conservation, land and labour rights, greenhouse gas, and other social, environmental and economic impacts.

Focusing on forests, the Indonesian government and WWF announced a bold commitment to protect the remaining forests and critical ecosystems of Sumatra. The Indonesian island holds some of the world’s most diverse – and endangered – forests. The commitment announced today has been endorsed by governors of all provinces across Sumatra, and by four Ministers.

The forum officially closed at the end of the day, with a call to take action to protect the planet’s natural wealth.

“In the last four days the call to protect the planet has been heard from both government leaders and the NGO community,” said Valli Moosa, President of IUCN. “Environmental concerns are now at the top of the decision-makers priority list.”

“Absolutely everyone now agrees that we can’t postpone decisive action if we are to avoid major disruptions in all spheres of human and natural activities,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN. “Business as usual is simply not an option.”

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