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Moving into action: IUCN World Conservation Congress opens

As the IUCN World Conservation Congress opened today in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, thousands of government and NGO representatives prepared to debate and act on key issues including conserving the oceans, climate change and the role of private investment in nature conservation.
Over the next 10 days, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s 1300 State and NGO Members will vote on a number of proposals promoted by IUCN members to help set the direction of conservation policy for the coming years.

At the opening ceremony, the focus was on moving into action. US Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, said: “The entire US delegation gathering here is on cloud nine, celebrating President Barack Obama’s most recent addition to our national monument system – Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the largest protected area in the world.”

“The Papahānaumokuākea expansion quadruples the size of the existing monument, which in itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site,” she said.

Ocean conservation is one of the key themes IUCN Congress is to decide on, including motions on increasing marine protected area coverage for effective marine biodiversity conservation and on advancing conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, or the high seas.

As he addressed the gathering, the Governor of Hawaii, David Ige, said: “I am committed to protecting 30% of our highest priority watersheds by 2030. Coral reefs provide capital for spectacular marine life and feed us and that is why I am committed to effectively managing 30% or our near shore ocean waters by 2030.”

The President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, spoke of the importance of fighting climate change and protecting the oceans for island nations like Palau.

“Today only about 2% of the total area of oceans is protected. Scientists tell us that figure should be at least 30%,” he said. “This is why Palau has sponsored a motion through the IUCN Assembly to adopt a target of establishing marine reserves that fully protect at least 30% of our oceans. And I call on all nations of the world to step up and support this critical motion for the oceans.”

An IUCN response to the Paris Climate Change Agreement proposes to advance nature-based climate change adaptation and mitigation solutions, and another Congress motion aims to take greater account of the ocean in the climate regime.

Wildlife trafficking is also among key issues up for discussion among IUCN members, with a motion to close domestic markets for elephant ivory.

The representatives of IUCN’s Member organisations from more than 160 countries will vote on the Congress motions on 7 and 9 September.

As he declared the IUCN Congress open, IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng said: “We have the right people here, together, in this inspiring place, with the knowledge, tools and influence to make a transformative difference, to take these bold steps to move the planet from tipping point, to turning point.”

Valuing and conserving nature is at the heart of IUCN’s mission, and it will be a priority theme throughout the IUCN Congress. During the Congress Forum from 2-5 September, there will be numerous sessions related to natural capital, as well as a debate on a motion concerning the organisation’s future policy on natural capital in the Members’ Assembly from 6-10 September.

The IUCN motion calls on the Director General to establish an inter-disciplinary and multi-sectoral working group to develop an IUCN policy on natural capital. However, the challenge, as the motion recognises, is IUCN is already involved in several natural capital initiatives, such as the development of the Natural Capital Protocol for business, and the Natural Capital Declaration project to integrate natural assets into the financial sector.

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