Australia’s New South Wales’ Environment Minister Rob Stokes has welcomed Pacific Island leaders into Sydney Harbour, as the World Parks Congress begins with more than 5,000 delegates-scientists, parks personnel and activists from 168 countries as well as five heads of state gathering in the city to participate in this once-in-a-decade event.
A flotilla of Vaka canoes from Oceania reached Darling Harbour marking the end of a 6,0000 nautical mile voyage to highlight the need for more action to tackle climate change during the week-long forum organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which will lay out the global agenda for protected areas for the next 10 years.
“The hope of the Congress is not bemoaning about the fate of nature, but rather looking at it as the provider of solutions, of human well-being,” said IUCN’s Director-General Julia Marton-Lefevre.
The focus is:
1. PARKS – Valuing and conserving nature.
The WPC 2014 will strengthen policy and action commitments for the expansion, connectivity and better management of parks and protected areas to cover all areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
2. PEOPLE – Effective and equitable governance of nature’s use.
The WPC 2014 will foster the equitable governance of parks and protected areas to empower communities (including indigenous peoples) to become involved and to benefit.
3. PLANET – Deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges.
The push to better manage some of the world’s most biodiverse sites comes as part of a global effort to address the impact of climate change on the environment. The concurrent TAPAS EcoTravel forum acknowledges the huge part tourism plays in parks usage and economic health.
About 15 percent of the world’s land mass and 3 percent of its marine areas — more than 200,000 sites around the globe — are currently designated as protected areas.
Host nation Australia said it had already met its 17 percent land conservation target, which Environment Minister Greg Hunt described as a “downpayment to the future.”
WILD president Vance Martin, a member of the core team for the “Promise of Sydney,” the main outcome document says “we aim to capture the boldest and most strategic thinking of governments, international organizations, communities, youth leaders, indigenous peoples, private individuals and organizations to chart the future direction for protected areas as offering and implementing solutions for the challenges faced by the planet.”