New UNEP Report Shows World On-Track to Meet 2020 Targets

New UNEP Report Shows World On-Track to Meet 2020 Targets


A new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) finds that 15.4 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 3.4 percent of the global ocean are now protected.

Approaching Manus, Papua New Guinea (Photo by: Marilou Drilon)

Approaching Manus, Papua New Guinea
(Photo by: Marilou Drilon)

The world is on track to meet a 2020 target on the expansion of protected areas, but more work is needed to ensure areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services are prioritized for protection under equitably managed conditions, according to the report, Protected Planet, released at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress.

Produced by UNEP’s World Conversation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) in partnership with IUCN, and funded by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Protected Planet not only monitors global efforts to support and expand protected areas, but supports governments toward faster progress with recommendations for action.

The protected areas of terrestrial and inland water and the global ocean highlight the growing global awareness of the need to safeguard the natural resources that will play a crucial role in the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals.

Protected areas are essential to the conservation of species, ecosystems and the livelihoods they support, and also play a key role in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change-for example, by reducing risks from natural hazards and providing a carbon sink through forests, 7.8 million square kilometers of which are in protected areas.

The report, the second in a series tracking progress toward meeting Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets, finds that 1.6 million of new protected areas have been designated since 2012. Since 2010, the total additional global coverage equates to 6.1 million sq. km. — an area approaching the size of Australia.

Target 11 calls for effectively and equitably managed conservation areas covering at least 17 per cent of the world’s terrestrial areas and ten per cent of marine areas-especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services-by 2020.

Protected Planet 2014 finds that the physical coverage aspect of the target is likely to be met, but highlights a lack of progress in other areas, such as: ensuring protected areas are appropriately located in areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are effectively and equitably managed, and are well-connected.

“Protected areas not only provide us with a vital ecological safety net but also play a vital economic role through the valuable ecosystem services they provide, from supplying water and timber, to sustaining tourism,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“As we work toward a comprehensive climate agreement, with the next meeting shortly taking place in Lima, and shape the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, it is crucial to expand protected areas in a targeted manner — thus supporting efforts to tackle climate change, and protecting biodiversity and the ecosystem services that sustain all of us.”

“This report shows that the will to do so is present,” he added. “We now need to build support and funding to ensure protected areas are effectively and equitably managed and cover enough important sites for biodiversity and ecosystem services-including marine protected areas.”

The protected area coverage was calculated using the August 2014 version of the World Database on Protected Areas. The database underwent a major update in 2014, based on the overwhelmingly positive response to a CBD request for parties to the convention to submit an update to UNEP-WCMC to compile the UN List of Protected Areas. By August 2014, 124 countries had submitted new data and 15 were in the process of submitting.

Just over six million square kilometers of marine protected areas have been added since 2010, with 1.5 million of this total coming since 2012. In total, 12 million of the global ocean is now covered.

While marine areas are lagging terrestrial areas in attaining the target, real progress has been made in areas within coastal waters and national jurisdiction-reaching coverage of 10.9 percent and 8.4 percent respectively.

However, only 0.25 percent of seas beyond national jurisdiction are covered by marine protected areas, demonstrating a gap in conservation efforts and highlighting the urgent need to overcome challenges in establishing such areas where national governance systems do not exist.

To meet the ten percent target in areas within national jurisdiction, a further 2.2 million sq. km. of marine areas will be required. In addition, 21.5 million sq. km. in the high seas need to be protected for the target of 10 percent to be attained.

Recent increases at sea are mainly due to the establishment of huge areas in waters around Australia, New Caledonia and Britain’s South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. In 2014, New Caledonia designated all of its jurisdictional waters as a marine protected area, encompassing an area of about 1.2 million km2, the largest protected area in the world.

If these areas were removed from the global marine statistics, coverage would be halved to only 1.8 per cent of the global ocean area and 4.4 per cent of jurisdictional waters.

The Coral Triangle is one of the world’s most important marine protected areas. It is critical for the economic and food security of about 120 million people dependent on fishing, nature tourism, and other coastal and marine resources.

Read the original story from UNEP News Centre.


DOWNLOAD: Protected Planet Report

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