Beyond Copenhagen

10 October 2009 | News story
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IUCN’s Deputy Director General, William Jackson looks at what the coming years hold for the conservation community in relation to climate change.

While the world has been slow to act on climate change, IUCN and other conservation organizations have long known about the dangers and have been working to make our natural systems resilient. The tide is finally turning and our challenge, as momentum builds, is to make sure that biodiversity concerns are incorporated into all efforts to mitigate climate change and adapt to the impacts we cannot now avoid.

We hope politicians will do the right thing in December-make the necessary commitments to reduce emissions and act immediately. We hope they will ensure sufficient means and financing for mitigation and adaptation, especially for the world's poorest, and adopt nature-based solutions in the new global framework. But we need to look beyond Copenhagen at what our priorities are for the coming decade.

We'll be taking a keen interest in how the REDD mechanism evolves. Will issues of benefit sharing and governance mechanisms be sufficiently addressed?Will they form part of a post-2012 climate change regime? We'll also be looking at how ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA), which is included in the negotiating text for Copenhagen, unfolds. IUCN will continue to work, along with its partners, on EbA and REDD, feeding lessons learned on the ground into international policy.

Tackling climate change is not simply the remit of the UNFCCC and government Parties. The links between climate change and biodiversity call for action by many other international agreements. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), for example, needs to address the role of biodiversity for both sequestering carbon and adapting to climate change. It especially has a mandate to address the challenges of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the face of climate change. The conventions on wetlands and desertification deal with habitats whose effective management will also contribute to adaptation. The CBD Conference of the Parties in Japan next year will be critical in ensuring that a new strategic plan for the convention fully responds to the challenges of climate change. Given limited resources and time, we must generate more effective coordination across these international policy instruments and make sure they are fully implemented.

We want to see that efforts to revitalize the global economy take advantage of the opportunity to decarbonize it using financial instruments such as carbon markets that will provide models for broader payments for ecosystem services. And as the world moves towards alternative energy sources including biofuels, we'll be helping to set standards to safeguard against any negative impacts on biodiversity.

Climate change cuts across all areas of IUCN's work, in terms of policy, field work and research, with several key focus areas:We'll be working to mainstream gender and rightsbased approaches into a post-Kyoto world.Our colleagues in the Marine Programme will be focusing on the role oceans play in the carbon cycle as well as in adaptation and mitigation. TheWater Programme is striving to make sure freshwater management and conservation are central to adaptation.We'll be examining the potential of carbon sinks such as mangroves, peatlands and wetlands in mitigation. The protected areas and species communities will be working to connect the world's protected areas so that they can best help species adapt to changing conditions and ensure that ecosystems continue to provide critical services.

Our 'to do' list may be daunting but we can take comfort in the fact that we're no longer labouring alone in the wilderness.We're seeing an unprecedented level of cooperation across sectors and organizations and there's a sense that the world is finally coming together to work towards the ultimate goal of a healthy and sustainable planet.


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