Peatland restoration: a nature-based solution to climate change

Total CO2 emissions from the half million km2 of degraded peatland globally exceeds 2 Gtons. Restoration of this resource is therefore critical for both biodiversity conservation and carbon emissions reduction and sequestration.

 Peatlands occur everywhere in the world, and I remember as a young boy visiting the nature area “Hoge Venen” in the Belgian Ardennes.  We would often travel on a Sunday from southern Netherlands where I lived to Belgium and spend the day walking in a beautiful nature area.  I have no photos from those days, but found the following photo by Alina on Wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Fens)
 
Peatlands have been modified in many cases.  Peatland was traditionally used mainly for grazing, but more recently for agriculture and forestry as well.  There were times when peat was dug for fuel and it is a popular medium for horticultural production. 

Recently, the enormous values of peatlands have been better recognised, and the role of peatland restoration as a cost effective nature-based solution to climate change will be addressed during a workshop on 7 September 2012 at the IUCN Congress in Jeju (http://www.iucnworldconservationcongress.org/). 

This workshop (http://www.iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/europe_at_the_congress/member_s_activities/?10431/WORKSHOP-Peatland-restoration-a-nature-based-solution-to-climate-change) will share new conclusions, recommendations and outcomes from the IUCN National Committee for the UK Peatland Programme and discuss with participants how these can be utilized by countries and regions around the world.

The IUCN UK Peatland Programme was set up in 2009 to promote peatland restoration in the UK. The Programme advocates the multiple benefits of peatlands through partnerships, strong science, sound policy and effective practice. 

The work of the Peatland Programme is overseen by a coalition of environmental bodies including the John Muir Trust, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB, North Pennines AONB Partnership, Moors for the Future, Natural England and the University of East London.

The programme operates under the auspices of the IUCN National Committee of the UK and if you want more information, you should visit the home page on: http://www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/

 

Are Business interested in Biodiversity?

We are in the third year of the European Business and Biodiversity Platform (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/biodiversity/business/index_en.html), and had discussions a few months ago about the future of this initiative and a possible next phase.  Surprisingly, maybe, was the lack of interest from the private sector to invest in the future of the European platform, and this raises questions.

Why are companies not interested to fund a platform to discuss nature conservation issues, when they were quite happy to be part of the initiative when it was funded by the European Commission?  The Commission is currently carrying out a questionnaire survey to find out, but the answer is most likely that being a member of the platform does not provide enough return on investment.  The platform was designed some years ago mainly as an awareness activity, but this is no longer enough.  Some companies made the point that they would invest in a European platform if it provided them with access to European policy negotiations, but without this, they did not see the value.

Yet, individual companies are concerned about nature conservation and are willing to pay for relevant advice.  The IUCN Regional Office for Europe has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the European Aggregates Association(UEPG) to develop a longer-term relationship focused on biodiversity aspects of quarrying and excavation in Europe (see the story on the IUCN web: http://www.iucn.org/news_homepage/all_news_by_theme/business_and_biodiversity_news/?10049/IUCN-and-European-Aggregates-Association-together-to-foster-biodiversity), and several of our European Members have working relationships with individual quarrying and mining companies. 
At the global level, IUCN has helped Swiss-based cement and aggregates and concrete company Holcim to develop its Biodiversity Management System (http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/business/our_engagements/bbp_holcim/bms/bms_development/)

If the interest is there, why is it difficult for companies and non-for-profit conservation organisations to agree on a common agenda?  The challenge for conservation groups is often to present their case as a business opportunity, as companies are not donors or philanthropic institutions.  One of the questions I raised during a debate at the Business and Biodiversity Forum in Stuttgart a few months ago was: “are we speaking the same language”?  The company representatives were not convinced!  This means that we – the nature conservation groups – need to think more strategically about our messages, our public relations and our relationship management with the private sector.

When a company sees the value of a partnership, the rest will follow.  Does that open the door to greenwash?  Of course this is a risk!  IUCN has a stringent internal process of due diligence to guide the development of a business relationship, but in the end it is a management decision.  Our bottom line (as described in the new IUCN business engagement strategy – http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/Rep-2012-001.pdf) is that we want to work with companies that are serious about change and improvement, and that includes companies that have been engaged in or are still doing questionable things. 

The main challenge will be to show that real change is happening!

Trans-boundary protected areas – a key tool for landscape-wide conservation

Cross-border nature conservation has been a tool to bring together parties with different political agendas.  It is also an essential means to protect landscapes that cross political boundaries within the larger landscape.  During my career, I have personally been involved in the creation of a belt of protected areas on the border between Lao PDR and Vietnam, thus protection the key habitat for a large number of threatened species in Indo-China.  In an earlier job, I was linked to the development of a trans-boundary protected area between Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe

There are some great examples of cross-border collaboration on nature conservation, and on 11 September at 14:30, IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas together with the German Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Korea National Park Service will host a workshop during the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea, to review experiences of some of the most prominent recent trans-boundary initiatives in the world.  http://www.iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/europe_at_the_congress/member_s_activities/?10334/WORKSHOP-Sharing-Benefits-and-Values-from-Transboundary-Conservation

 Case studies will include the European Green Belt, (http://www.europeangreenbelt.org/), the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), cooperation in protected area management in South-Eastern Europe, The Biodiversity Corridor of Central America and the work on mountain conservation in the Himalayan region.  There will be speakers from many stakeholders including protected area management agencies, local government and NGOs.  Following a number of key presentations, there will be a moderated discussion between the panel of experts and the audience. This segment of the workshop will encourage open and interactive dialogue on the current state of and future prospects for trans-boundary conservation.  

If you are not planning to be at the IUCN Congress, but you are interested to learn more about these exciting initiatives, you will be able to get more information from hans.friederich@iucn.org.

How to conserve biodiversity across 10 percent of the Earth?

Protected areas are one of the best means of protecting critical ecosystems and biodiversity.  IUCN prides itself as the world authority in this field, and its World Commission on Protected Areas has set the global standards for protected area management. One of our interests is to help governments with the establishment of a national system of conservation.  That is not so difficult for an average country, but to do so for the Russian Federation means that you are looking at one -ninth of the world land surface!

WWF-Russia worked together with more than 300 local specialists to carry out a gap-analysis of existing federal protected areas of the Russian Federation.  This analysis is the first of its kind for Russia.  On 8 September at 13:00, during the IUCN World Conservation Congress, this study will be presented through a poster sessions that showcases the contribution of Russia’s protected areas to the conservation of many important species. http://iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/europe_at_the_congress/?10404/POSTER-Conserving-biodiversity-across-19th-of-the-Earth

Twelve per cent of Russia’s total land area is already protected, which is an impressive statistic.  The WWF analysis has identified more than 600 potential future terrestrial and marine protected areas, and the Government of the Russian Federation has agreed to granting protected area status to the sites with the highest priority by 2020.

This is another key event from Europe at the IUCN Congress.  If you want more information, contact me.  I can put you in touch with the relevant people. All the best Hans

Industry conservation action: “Leaders for Nature”

The Leaders for Nature initiative, managed by the IUCN National Committee in the Netherlands has enabled the development of action plans on global biodiversity and ecosystems by those Dutch companies that are members of the initiative.  In the coming years, we expect that these action plans will be turned into long-term commitments and cooperation between the companies, IUCN and its Members.

While Leaders for Nature has started in the Netherlands, many of the member companies are global enterprises, and similar initiatives have started in India and are under consideration in other European countries.  We are currently carrying out a review of European Business and Biodiversity initiatives to determine what is going on throughout Europe, and to advise the European Commission about the future of its European Business and Biodiversity Platform.  The initial results of the study will be presented at the Business and Economy Pavilion during the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju on 10 September from 14:30 to 15:30, followed by a presentation of Leaders for Nature.  http://iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/europe_at_the_congress/pavilions/

During an interactive “Leaders for Nature” workshop at the Congress on 9 September at 11:00, examples will be presented from different conservation group working together with the private sector to achieve biodiversity conservation goals.  Central questions addressed in this workshop include: what has been done, what has worked and what we have learned?  Following initial presentations, there will be a discussion with participants on how to move to action.

This 9 September event is organized by the IUCN National Committee in the Netherlands, in partnership with IUCN National Committees in France and India, the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, and IUCN Regional Offices for Europe and Asia.

The event follows the IUCN-World Business Council for Sustainable Development Business Think Tank at the congress on the afternoon of 8 September, which is focusing on enabling policies.

Lots of private sector activities at the IUCN Congress!

Hans

Are global events useful?

I am on holiday in Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea.  The pace of life is different here, and you take more time to reflect on work, society and the future.

When I come back to work, there will be only 6 weeks left till we travel to Jeju island in Korea for the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress, which takes place from 6 to 15 September this year.  That will be the third large, international conference in 2012 that discusses aspects of sustainable development, after the World Water Forum in Marseille, France in March and the Rio+20 summit in Brazil in June.  The IUCN Congress will be followed by the Conferences of Parties of the Ramsar Convention (Bucharest, Romania – July), the Convention on Biological diversity (Hyderabad, India – October) and the Framework Convention on Climate Change (Doha, Quater – November, December)

Some people ask if it makes sense that so many people fly long-distance to discuss how to minimise our ecological footprint and how to support conservation of natural resources and maintenance of ecosystem services!  One argument goes that if we had cancelled all international conferences this year, and invested the savings in a global programme for ecosystem restoration, we might have made more impact and could have had more immediate results.  The lack of political leadership at the recent RIO+20 Summit is offered as a case in point.

But – how cynical some of you may be about global environmental governance – these international meetings are important, and the outcomes have an impact on global policies, guidelines and regulations.  IUCN carried out a study to record which nature conservation decisions can be traced back to the IUCN General Assemblies and World Conservation Congresses of the past, and we were pleasantly surprised.  I will not try to summarise the report, as you can download it from: http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/resolutions_eng_web__2_.pdf

After the last IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona in 2008, which was attended by some 7000 people, IUCN commissioned an independent evaluation.  One of the key findings of the review team was that 90% of respondents believed that the 2008 Congress represented a good investment of their time and resources.

So – we are making the most of the opportunity to organise the 2012 Congress, and although it is on the other side of the world, IUCN Europe has its own activities and events throughout the Congress.  We will have a meeting of all European Members and a meeting of all European National Committees of Members.  The IUCN Members will elect 6 new European Councillors for the period 2013-2016, and one of the candidates for IUCN President is European.  There will be a large number of European Member’s events during the Forum, IUCN Europe will be active in all Pavilions, and there will be more.  Please look at our website for more information (http://www.iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/europe_at_the_congress).  In particular, our record of short stories about specific activities by our Members gives you an impression of the variety of what is planned. 

We are updating the information every few days, and I will keep you briefed about progress in the run up to the Congress, and during the discussions in Jeju.

All the best

Hans Friederich