Save Protected Areas to reduce impact of global warming: Book

Save Protected Areas to reduce impact of global warming: Book

The book entitled 'Nature Solution: Protected Areas Helping People Cope with Climate Change" is from the stable of IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Bank and World Wildlife Fund.

The book clearly articulates for the first time how protected areas contribute significantly to reducing the impacts of climate change and what is needed for them to achieve even more, said UK's top economist Lord Nicholas Stern, in a foreword.

Protected areas  -- portions of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity and of natural resources -- play a major role in reducing climate changing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere since 15 per cent of the world's terrestrial carbon stock - 312 Gigatonnes - is stored in these areas around the world.

In Canada, over 4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide is sequestered in 39 national parks, estimated to be worth USD 39-87 billion in carbon credits. Similarly in the Brazilian Amazon, protected lands are expected to prevent 670,000 sq km of deforestation by 2050, representing 8 billion tonnes of avoided carbon emissions.

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

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 to communities relying upon them 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," said 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 people's resilience to climate change," said The Nature Conservancy's Trevor Sandwith, who is also Deputy Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

Maintaining and expanding protected areas needs to be recognised both in the UN 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, says the book.

But despite their value for both adaptation and mitigation to climate change, financial support to the global protected areas network is less than half of what is needed for maximum efficiency, placing the system at risk.

"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," says Alexander Belokurov, Landscape Conservation Manager of WWF International.