Protected areas as part of efforts to combat climate change

A river and some plants in Yasuni National Park.

Protected area Yasuní in Ecuador. Photo: Oliver Hölcke / IKI

REDPARQUES, the Latin American Technical Cooperation Network on National Parks, other Protected Areas and Wildlife, presented the REDPARQUES Declaration on Protected Areas and Climate Change at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21). The declaration calls for the integration of protected areas into national and global climate planning and financing strategies and clearly highlights the vital role of protected areas as a natural and cost-effective solution for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. The declaration was signed by 18 countries and presented together with the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), with support from Peru's Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal.

The declaration emphasises that cross-border cooperation is necessary in order to resolve global problems and also recognises the important role of indigenous peoples and local municipalities in managing protected areas. It promotes the expansion of current technical, scientific and financial measures in this field. Protected areas are equipped with a 'green infrastructure,' which is vital not only for implementing mitigation and adaptation measures, but also protects the social, cultural and economic interests of society and indigenous populations. In Latin America, for example, there are almost 2,000 protected areas, 390 of them in the Amazon biome alone. These provide natural ecosystem services for people and the planet but are still systematically underestimated.

The REDPARQUES climate declaration came about as part of the project 'Increasing the Resilience of the Amazon Biome', which is being funded with EUR 1.9 million through BMUB's International Climate Initiative. The declaration was officially handed over to the Secretariat of the UNFCCC in Paris on 10 December and met with extensive media coverage. Prince Charles (President of WWF-UK) had already acknowledged the importance of the Latin American initiative.

During one of the events at COP21 in Paris, Ruth Irlen, policy officer for forest conservation and sustainable forest management at BMUB, commented on German involvement in this field: 'Climate solutions provided by protected areas can be supported by Germany through biodiversity and REDD+ finance.'

It was also considered a major triumph that the Paris Agreement makes reference in several paragraphs and articles to the link between protected areas and climate change. These include Article 5 ("implementing measures geared to forest conservation"), Articles 7 and 8 ("strengthening the resilience of ecosystems") and Article 7 ("management of sustainable resources").