In just over a month, delegates from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will meet in Copenhagen in the most highly-anticipated climate change meeting in years. Intended to develop guidelines for a post-Kyoto climate treaty, the Copenhagen meeting is the culmination of several years of intense discussion and debate by the international climate community.
This week, at the last major climate conference before Copenhagen, WILD9 participants are making a final push for the inclusion of forest conservation in Copenhagen’s international climate agreement.
Healthy Ecosystems, Healthy Climate
At Conservation International (CI), we have made it our mission to spread the message that forests and natural ecosystems are an important part of the solution to the climate change crisis. Since 1750, about 30 percent of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere by humans has come from the destruction or degradation of forests and other natural ecosystems, and about 16 percent of annual carbon emissions today come from deforestation. There are about 7 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide contained in natural ecosystems around the world – forests, grasslands, peatlands and other ecosystems – a disaster waiting to happen if even a fraction of this amount is suddenly released.
But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Some scientists say that it could take hundreds of years to make up the carbon debt incurred by disturbing old-growth forests. In addition to their mitigation benefits, healthy ecosystems (including primary forests) are also more resilient to the effects of climate change, which means they offer the best hope of maintaining the biodiversity and ecosystem services that indigenous peoples and communities depend on for their livelihoods.
IN DEPTH: Learn more about CI's strategy to mitigate climate change.
The conclusion is clear: in order to slow the devastating impacts of climate change and sustain biodiversity and social well-being, it’s essential to protect intact ecosystems, particularly old growth forests.
This simple message will be among those carried forward with enthusiasm at WILD9 – the 9th World Wilderness Congress.
The Congress, which is endorsed by Mexico’s President Calderon, Environment Minister Juan Elvira and Protected Areas Agency Director Ernesto Enkerlin, will feature an impressive array of speakers, many of whom will share thoughts on climate change solutions and the need for forest protection: Amory Lovins; Jane Goodall; Carl Safina; Pavan Sukdhev; Jim Prentice - Canadian Minister of the Environment; Carolyn Rodriguez - Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana; Michael Jong Tien Fa - Minister of Regional Planning and Forestry of Suriname; Senator Tommy Remengesau - former President of Palau – and many others.
CI is a sponsor of WILD9 and will be represented by Vice President for Policy Carlos Manuel Rodriguez and Senior Vice President of Global Strategies and Climate Change Lead Fred Boltz.
CONFERENCE: 9th World Wilderness Congress
“As with all World Wilderness Congresses,” emphasizes Vance Martin, President of the WILD Foundation, “WILD9 is a conservation project rather than a conference; it is the culmination of a two year planning effort with well-defined and innovative conservation outcomes.”
WILD9’s outcomes will be diverse and far reaching.
A memorandum of understanding on wilderness conservation will be signed by land management agencies in Canada, the United States and Mexico – the first time governments are coming together to promote a continent-wide wilderness conservation planning vision.
Following on the many recent successes of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), which was launched at the 8th World Wilderness Congress in 2005, WILD9 will feature the largest gathering of conservation photographers in the world for ILCP’s WiLDSPEAK Conservation Communications Symposium. ILCP will also launch "The Wealth of Nature," a new book exploring ecosystem services through both science and imagery.
Additionally, WILD9 will offer numerous information sessions and workshops for delegates interested in payments for ecosystem services from forests, including REDD+ and forest carbon projects which aim to financially compensate communities for protecting standing forests. CI’s Fred Boltz will chair a panel on the role of nature – particularly forests – in fighting climate change, and the importance of an effective REDD+ design.
LEARN MORE: The role of forests in mitigating climate change.
The timing of WILD9, just after the last formal negotiating session for the UNFCCC, and just prior to the Copenhagen meetings, provides a great communications platform for those seeking concrete steps for climate mitigation and adaptation. WILD9 will issue a strong statement on wilderness, climate change and biodiversity, further reinforcing the importance of wilderness conservation, including forest protection and a robust REDD+ mechanism, within a new Copenhagen climate agreement.
In particular, the statement will emphasize that the UNFCCC and the Convention on Biological Diversity must work together, given that the global climate change crisis and the biodiversity crisis are so closely linked.
But the other part of the message from WILD9 will be broader and more straightforward.
Scientists are now telling us we should aim to stabilize global atmospheric carbon at 350 parts per million (ppm), not 450ppm, which is the current target in UNFCCC negotiations. We are now at roughly 385 ppm. In other words, we need to stop the increase in emissions very soon, and start decreasing them rapidly if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.
WILD9 will issue a clear call for urgent concerted action and funding to protect our planet’s remaining wilderness – for people, for the climate and for biodiversity, because quite simply, we can no longer afford to wait.
READ MORE: Adapting to Climate Change