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Integrating protected areas into climate planning

28 / 02 / 2012, Eldis Biodiversity

Though protected areas have increased considerably over the last 130 years, there are several troubling trends, including national and regional disparities, ecological gaps, a decline in the growth of new protected areas, and problems with ineffective management. However, society increasingly expects protected areas to provide an expanded array of benefits, including climate mitigation, resilience and adaptation. This paper discusses the integration of protected areas into climate planning.The article argues that despite the overall growth in protected area coverage, the reality is that:

there are great disparities in the world’s protected area estate
the rapid growth of protected areas is not uniform across countries reflecing several underlying factors
whereas growth of marine protected areas has been impressive, much of this gain can be attributed to a relatively small number of very large marine reserves
there has been a marked decline in the rate of growth for terrestrial protected areas in the last decade
legal designation of an area as protected does not always ensure effective management.

The paper poses the following questions for policy makers in relation to the maximisation of climate change resilience, adaptation and mitigation.

Where should new protected areas be located?
How should protected areas be managed?
What factors and policies are necessary?

The article suggests the following policy direction:

a robust and compatible policy environment is essential for an effective protected area system
planners should assess the economic value of protected areas in relation to climate change
protected area policy makers should explicitly link protected areas into national climate change planning
planners should take advantage of climate funding to improve the enabling environment by advocating for restoring degraded key protected areas
planners should incorporate climate change into ecological gap assessments and consider climate-related design features in the layout of new protected areas
planners can better integrate protected area planning into sectoral planning such as transportation, energy and invasive species; assess and communicate the full economic value of protected areas in addressing climate-related issues and ensure that protected areas are an integral part of climate adaptation planning.

The paper concludes that although there are potential tradeoffs between managing protected areas for biodiversity and for climate, the overwhelming social, economic and ecological benefits of protected areas make them a natural and cost-effective investment.

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