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World Conservation Congress: the IUCN wants to orient action against the climate and biodiversity crises

The World Conservation Congress ended on Friday, 10 September, with the publication of the “Marseille Manifesto”, an appeal to the IUCN’s members for a post-pandemic recovery based on nature and for a strong commitment from governments in favour of biodiversity.

This appeal completed the adoption by the Assembly of Members of the IUCN’s programme for 2021-2024, in the framework of its strategy Nature 2030. Thus, it prepares for the coming decade in terms of nature conservation, shortly before the COP26 on the Climate due to take place in Glasgow in November (United Kingdom) and the COP15 on Biodiversity scheduled in spring 2022 at Kunming (China).

The IUCN in brief


Founded in 1948, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is one of the main international non-governmental organisations dedicated to nature conservation. It has more than 1,500 members (210 States and government agencies, 1,200 NGOs and associations of indigenous peoples, and corporate associations) that it brings together every 4 years in congress. Its six commissions gather 17,000 experts and scientists whose works and references (such as the red list of endangered species, the List of World Natural Heritage Sites and the new Global standard for Nature-based Solutions) provide benchmarks on the state of nature and natural resources in the world and measures for preserving them.

This Congress is the most important nature preservation event that France has ever hosted. It grouped 9,200 participants in Marseille and more than 20,000 visitors watched it online. It was also open to the general public, a world first.


Radical changes are needed to combat the climate and biodiversity crises


“We cannot cut ourselves off from nature: we are a part of it and we depend on it for our lives and our livelihoods”, declared the IUCN in its Appeal. The emergencies brought about by climate change and the loss of biodiversity are not separate from each other and call for rapid, radical and systemic changes: “Humanity has reached a tipping point. Our window of opportunity to react to these interdependent emergencies and share the resources of our planet fairly is rapidly shrinking. Our present systems are no longer working.” The motions adopted at the IUCN are not binding for governments, though it pleaded with them to set ambitious targets to designate protected areas on both the sea and land, and to adopt efficient measures so that at least 30% of the planet is protected by 2030.


Making the voice of rivers heard within the IUCN


IFGR joined the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a member several days before the Congress opened: it was a strong signal of acknowledgement of our commitment in favour of river habitats so vital to human beings. By becoming a member of the IUCN, IFGR has strengthened its positioning as spokesperson for rivers and its original, integrated and interdisciplinary approach, to better understand and protect these living entities by forging the link between stakeholders and territories.

Represented by Erik Orsenna, its chairman, IFGR shared its convictions during the congress and emphasised its actions relating to the 3 major themes that dominated the congress:


  1. Nature-based solutions, during a conference organised by the International Office for Water, the IUCN and the PFE dedicated to the advantages of this approach and its implementation (link to the conference on the IUCN site). In its final report, the IUCN insisted on the necessity to decarbonise the global economy: “it is vital to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions urgently in order to limit the increase in temperature to 1.5° C”, and it called on governments to incorporate nature-based solutions in their commitments to the Paris Agreement.
  2. Erik Orsenna, Chairman of IFGR, at the Plastic-free River Charter conference

    The combat against plastic pollution, with centre stage given to the initiative of the Plastic Free River Charter , promoted by IFGR, the Tara Océan Foundation and CNR, and aimed at Mayors: this charter now has more than 140 signatories, including the city of Marseille, which joined the initiative on this occasion, and it benefits from strong support from the French government, confirmed by the presence of Bérangère Abba, Secretary of State for Biodiversity during the event. Furthermore, during the congress, France committed itself to a treaty on plastic pollution and to organising a Summit on Oceans in order to make progress with international action.

  3. Knowledge of Life through Data: IFGR is a partner of the new alliance Vigilife International  which uses environmental DNA technology. One of its first programmes, “sentinel rivers”, is aimed at inventorying, monitoring and preserving the biodiversity of a large number of the world’s rivers.

“Investing in nature means investing in our collective future.”

– Marseille manifesto.


Investing sustainably in favour of nature


In order to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the IUCN “encourages governments, civil society and the private sector to renew a positive relation with nature and human beings”. This will occur through the transition to a sustainable economy and setting up nature-based recovery plans: “At least 10% of total economic recovery budgets should be assigned to protecting and restoring nature” whereas today only 0.2% of the world’s GNP is earmarked for protecting the environment. This recommendation is one of 137 proposals that the international conservation community defended in its final text, which should serve as a route plan for politicians. It also stated that benefit should be taken of the capacities to act of all individuals, especially 15-24 year-olds, who represent almost a fifth of the world’s population, and indigenous peoples who are the guardians of biodiversity.


Put an end to the loss biodiversity


The coming months will be decisive regarding the urgency of how countries will attack the issue of biodiversity. The participants of COP 15 must collaborate in order to achieve the restoration of ecosystems from now to 2050. The aim is to better understand ecosystems that have been transformed, especially farmland and coasts, and eliminate sources of pollution. Besides the conservation of protected areas, it is necessary to conserve protected species and ecosystems, and support the diversity of soils and agroecology to ensure sustainable food production.


Facing the climate emergency


Together, governments, NGOs, the private sector and populations must act in favour of biodiversity and the climate. Strengthened by its international and plural identity, the IUCN hopes that everyone has the power to act on their own level and that the most vulnerable countries and communities are protected against the impacts of climate change.


“The climate, nature and humanity are inseparable”.

E. Macron, President of the French Republic in his opening speech at the Congress.

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