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Natural Solutions To Climate Change Crisis

Protected areas – natural solutions to climate change crisis

By the IUCN

Copenhagen, Denmark, 8 December, 2009 – Protected areas offer a cost effective solution to the impacts of climate change, according to a new book from IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, the United Nations Development Programme, Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Bank and WWF.

This book, Natural Solutions: protected areas helping people cope with climate change, clearly articulates for the first time how protected areas contribute significantly to reducing the impacts of climate change and what’s needed for them to achieve even more,” says Lord Nicholas Stern, who wrote a foreword for the report. Protected areas play a major role in reducing climate changing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Fifteen percent of the world’s terrestrial carbon stock - 312 Gigatonnes - are stored in protected areas around the world. In Canada, more than four billion tons of carbon dioxide is sequestered in 39 national parks, estimated to be worth $39-87 billion in carbon credits. In the Brazilian Amazon, protected lands are expected to prevent 670,000 km² of deforestation by 2050, representing eight billion tons of avoided carbon emissions.

Protected areas also serve as natural buffers against climate impacts and other disasters, providing space for floodwaters to disperse, stabilizing soil against landslides and blocking storm surges. It has been estimated that coastal wetlands in the United States provide $23.2 billion a year in protection against flooding from hurricanes.

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And protected areas can keep natural resources healthy and productive so they can withstand the impacts of climate change and continue to provide the food, clean water, shelter and income communities rely upon for survival. Thirty three of the world’s 100 largest cities derive their drinking water from catchments within forest protected areas.

The living conditions of rural communities, whose livelihoods are already threatened by climate change, will significantly worsen without immediate action,” says Veerle Vanderweerd, Director of UNDP’s Energy and Environment group.

Actually, expanding protected area coverage and involving indigenous and local communities in these efforts could be one of the most effective ways to reinforce nature and peoples resilience to climate change,” says The Nature Conservancy’s Trevor Sandwith, who is also Deputy Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

"Ecosystem-based adaptation measures can provide cost effective and proven alternatives to costly infrastructure as countries and communities struggle to address the environmental consequences of climate change and more extreme weather events," says Michele de Nevers, Senior Manager at the World Bank’s Environment Department.

As climate negotiations unroll in Copenhagen and with the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity just around the corner, maintaining and expanding protected areas needs to be recognized in both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biodiversity as a powerful tool against climate change and should be a component of national climate change strategies.

But despite their value for both adaptation and mitigation to climate change, financial support to the global protected areas network is less than half what is needed for maximum efficiency, placing the system at risk. World leaders need to understand that investing in protected areas is an investment in the security of their communities.

“In the rush for ‘new’ solutions to climate change, we are in danger of neglecting a proven alternative,” says Alexander Belokurov, Landscape Conservation Manager of WWF International. “Protected areas are an investment which societies have made for a millennia, using traditional approaches which have proven their potential and effectiveness in modern times.”

About IUCN IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges.

IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.

IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,000 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 60 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.

About The Nature Conservancy The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have helped protect 130 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

About WWF WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

About the United Nations Development Programme: UNDP is the UN's global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP is on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges.

About the Wildlife Conservation Society For over a century, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has worked to save wildlife and wild lands around the globe. Founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society, today WCS has field staff at work in over 60 nations, protecting many of the last wild places left on our planet. We uniquely combine the resources of our parks with field projects around the globe to inspire care for nature, provide leadership in environmental education, and help sustain our planet's biological diversity.


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