Protected areas form a central element of the work in the thematic areas and cross-cutting issues addressed by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
a) Marine Protected Areas:
Because oceans and seas cover 71% of the Earth, the under-representation of marine and coastal ecosystems in the current global protected areas system is particularly alarming. At the same time, global and regional assessments indicate that marine biodiversity globally continues to decline rapidly. For example, coral reefs are highly degraded worldwide, approximately 35% of mangroves have been lost in the last two decades, and historical over-fishing has greatly reduced the abundance of large consumer species, including predatory fish. In addition, there are increasing and urgent concerns about the effects of over-fishing and destructive fishing practices on biodiversity. Halting, and perhaps ultimately reversing, this trend presents the global community with a formidable challenge.
The seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed in 2004 that marine and coastal protected areas are one of the essential tools and approaches in the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity (decision VII/5
on marine and coastal biological diversity). The Conference of the Parties also agreed that a national framework of marine and coastal protected areas should include a range of levels of protection, encompassing both areas that allow sustainable uses and those that prohibit extractive uses (i.e., so-called “no-take” areas). The Conference further recognized that protected areas alone could not accomplish everything, and that sustainable management practices are needed over the wider marine and coastal environment.
(b) In the programme of work on the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems (decision VII/4
), goal 1.2 calls for the establishment and maintenance of comprehensive, adequate and representative systems of protected inland water ecosystems within the framework of integrated catchment/watershed/river basin management;
(c) The use and establishment of additional protected areas and the strengthening of measures in existing protected areas are identified as some of the necessary target actions for the implementation of the work programme on dry and sub-humid lands (Decision V/23
, annex 1, part B, activity 7(a));
(d) The expanded programme of work on forest biodiversity, which was adopted in decision VI/22
, contains a number of activities related to protected areas. The programme of work also calls for work on the role and effectiveness of protected areas. Controlling deforestation, including through establishment of forest protected areas, is being considered as a means to avoid greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change;
(e) Goals 1.1 and 2.3 of the programme of work on mountain biodiversity (decision VII/27) contains provisions on how to plan, establish and manage protected areas in mountain ecosystems, including the buffer zones of protected areas, using, as appropriate, planning or management mechanisms, such as ecological/economic/ecoregional planning/bioregional/hazardous-areas zoning, so as to ensure the maintenance of biodiversity, in particular ecosystem integrity. Actions 1.2.5 and 2.3.1, in particular, call for the establishment and strengthening of adequate, effective national, regional and international networks of mountain protected areas, and the promotion of integrated transboundary cooperation, strategies for sustainable activities on mountain ranges and protected areas;
(f) The programme of work on Article 8(j) on traditional knowledge includes a component on protected areas relating to the management of protected areas by indigenous and local communities (decision VI/10). Specific emphasis is put on the respect of their rights when establishing new protected areas (decisions VII/16);
(g) The Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development, adopted by the world community in decision VII/14 of the Conference of the Parties, include guidelines on how to incorporate sustainable use and equity strategies within and around protected areas;
(h) The value of taxonomic data in assisting protected area site selection is recognized in the programme of work for the Global Taxonomy Initiative, contained in decision VI/8. Protected areas are also mentioned in connection with identification, monitoring, indicators and assessments (decision VI/7) and the Addis Ababa principles and guidelines for sustainable use of biodiversity (decision VII/12);
(i) In the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (annex to decision VI/9), the Conference of the Parties adopted targets 4 and 5, which specify respectively that by 2010 (i) at least 10% of each of the world's ecological regions should be effectively conserved, implying increasing the representation of different ecological regions in protected areas, and increasing the effectiveness of protected areas; and (ii) protection of 50% of the most important areas for plant diversity should be assured through effective conservation measures, including protected areas.
(j) In decision VIII/28 the COP endorsed voluntary guidelines on biodiversity-inclusive impact assessment and urged Parties, other Governments and relevant organizations to apply the voluntary guidelines on biodiversity-inclusive environmental impact assessment as appropriate in the context of their implementation of paragraph 1 (a) of Article 14 of the Convention and of target 5.1 of the provisional framework of goals and targets for assessing progress towards 2010. The COP invited multilateral environmental agreements to take note of and, if appropriate, apply the voluntary guidelines on biodiversity-inclusive environmental impact assessment. These guidelines make environmental impact assessment mandatory for activities in protected areas and activities in threatened ecosystems outside protected areas.
(k) In decision VIII/30 on biodiversity and climate change, the COP encouraged Parties and other Governments to integrate biodiversity considerations into all relevant national policies, programmes and plans in response to climate change, taking into account the maintenance and restoration of the resilience of ecosystems, which are essential for sustaining the delivery of their goods and services. The COP further encouraged Parties, other Governments, relevant organizations and research institutions to develop rapid assessment tools for the design and implementation of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use activities that contribute to adaptation to climate change, particularly in vulnerable countries and regions, including small island developing States. The COP requested the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice to develop draft guidance on how to integrate relevant climate change impacts and response activities into the programmes of work of the Convention, taking into account, inter alia, the contributions that protected areas can make in this context.
It is important to note that the planning, establishment, management and monitoring of protected areas need to take into account the ecosystem approach (decision VII/11) biodiversity-inclusive guidelines on environmental impact assessment (decision VIII/28), guidelines for tourism (decision VII/14), provisions of Article 8(j) of the Convention and incentive measures (decision VIII/26).