Posted on 02 July 2019
Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2015 Paris Agreement underscore the role protected areas and other conserved areas play in reaching global mitigation and adaptation targets.
With financial support from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), WWF US reviewed 151 currently available NDCs to determine how Parties intend to utilize protected areas to contribute to their adaptation and mitigation commitments.
Countries highlight protected areas in national climate plans
Results show that of the 179 countries included in this analysis, 67—more than one-third—identified protected areas as a means of attaining their adaptation and mitigation goals. Of these, almost half (32) expressed an intention to add new protected areas or expand coverage of those already in place. While these numbers are encouraging, there is ample room for improvement. For example, 36 countries indicated plans to increase forest cover, plant trees or expand natural areas, but did not clearly state if or how these areas might be protected or managed. Nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation and mitigation using protected areas were largely absent. Only 21 countries (12%) specifically mentioned the carbon sequestration benefits that protected areas can provide, while just 8 (4%) acknowledged the role that ecosystem services from protected areas can play in helping vulnerable people adapt to climate change. Finally, only 10 NDCs pledged to manage protected areas for current or anticipated climate change risks to ecosystems and biodiversity.
While NDCs are a communications tool and not a comprehensive inventory of all national and subnational plans for climate change adaptation and mitigation targets, they are a good indicator of the status national governments give to protected areas in achieving climate change goals. WWF acknowledges the likelihood of extensive under-reporting of strategies and activities involving protected and other conserved areas as a component of national contributions. Yet including these in NDCs would be a simple way to demonstrate increased ambition and call attention to the need for critical ecosystem services and biodiversity for future prosperity.
The socioeconomic and ecological benefits of protected areas have been well documented. Success in achieving climate change goals by conserving biodiversity and safeguarding ecosystem services will largely depend on Parties’ willingness and ability to adhere to the commitments they make to global conventions, and how well protected and conserved areas are managed. Further research will be needed to track progress and evaluate impact.
To enhance climate ambition through protected and conserved areas, WWF encourages Parties revising their NDCs for 2020 and beyond to consider the following five recommendations based on this analysis:
- Acknowledge the role that protected and other conserved areas play in achieving climate change adaptation and mitigation goals and include them in NDCs and related climate change policies.
- Increase coverage of protected and conserved areas and set specific, measurable and time-bound targets (hectares conserved, percentage increase in coverage by 2030, etc.)
- Clearly articulate the role of protected and conserved areas in helping people adapt to climate change, and link specific climate hazards and vulnerable populations with the appropriate ecosystem services needed for adaptation.
- Integrate the carbon sequestration benefits of protected and other conserved areas into climate change mitigation targets.
- Commit to managing protected and other conserved areas for current and anticipated climate risks to ecosystems and biodiversity while calling attention to the need for increased technical and financial support to improve protected area management in the face of rapid change.
Protected areas and other conserved areas, such as indigenous and community conserved areas, sacred natural sites and military lands can contribute to much needed climate change adaptation and mitigation goals, yet they have not been comprehensively addressed in NDCs submitted to the UNFCCC. Protected and other conserved areas are also important components of national commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
WWF strongly encourages Parties to consider the myriad benefits that nature provides and emphasise the importance of ecosystem conservation and biodiversity in their revised NDCs.
The WWF report, Enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions through Protected Areas, was written by Abigail Hehmeyer, Jacqueline Vogel, Shaun Martin and Ryan Bartlett.