IUCN: Calling for climate action since 1960

In 2015, 195 countries adopted the landmark Paris Agreement with the aim of enhancing global action to address climate change. IUCN was among the first international organizations to flag the impacts of humans and modern technological development on nature, and call for research, practical action, and international-level coordination to address environmental and climate issues.  

IUCN: Calling for climate action since 1960 Photo: IUCN

At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawai’i in September 2016, IUCN and its Members will explore political, social, economic and technical issues around climate change, focusing especially on nature-based solutions to climate challenges including through Ecosystem-based Adaptation, eco-disaster risk reduction and Forest Landscape Restoration, among others. This will carry forward over 50 years of efforts by the Union to spotlight climate-related issues, including the need to develop national renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, the need for international climate frameworks and coordination, and the need to advance the role of nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation and mitigation within the context of the global climate change regime.

Sounding the alarm

In the 1960s, global-level recognition of the linkages between human activities, the climate and nature was limited. At the IUCN Members Assembly in Warsaw, Poland in 1960, IUCN was among the first international organizations to flag the “impact of man and modern technological development on nature and natural resources”. IUCN Members expressed deep concern about these impacts and called for more research on the “interrelationships of the climate, soil, vegetation and fauna”.

Calling for clean energy

At the IUCN Members Assembly in Kinshasa, Congo in 1975, decades before the emergence of the renewable energy revolution, IUCN Members adopted a resolution recommending that governments fully support the research and development of renewable sources of energy, install large-scale energy saving programs, and use fossil fuels only as a bridge to cleaner energy sources. Although at the time energy concerns were largely related to the 1973 oil crisis, IUCN’s primary motivation for sparking a transition to renewable energies were the “far-reaching consequences for nature conservation and human welfare” of fossil fuels.

Building international collaboration

By the 1980s the scientific community had reached a consensus that greenhouse gas emissions were driving global warming. At the IUCN Congress in San Jose, Costa Rica in 1988, IUCN built on this “wide agreement amongst scientists” with a resolution calling for cooperation among international environmental organizations including the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for research and analysis of the greenhouse effect, and the development of practical solutions to mitigate the consequences of global warming and minimize negative environmental impacts.

At the IUCN General Assembly in Perth, Australia in 1990, IUCN Members called on national governments to begin negotiations on an effective “Framework Convention on Climate Change”. They also urged developed countries to reduce their emissions by at least 20 per cent by the year 2000 and that all countries should end deforestation by 2010 and take measures to optimize forests’ carbon storage capabilities.

Two years later, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also known as the Earth Summit, 165 countries signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which aimed to stabilize greenhouses gas concentrations in the atmosphere so as to prevent human-caused climate change. This Conference was groundbreaking and led to important landmark summits culminating in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Advancing nature-based solutions

In 2012, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2012 in Jeju, Korea, the Union advocated nature-based solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation, emphasizing their potential to contribute towards addressing this global challenge.

IUCN  continues to work on nature-based solutions to climate change at global, national and local levels including through Forest Landscape Restoration (including the Bonn Challenge), various REDD+ projects, the Blue Carbon Initiative, Ecosystem-based Adaptation, eco-disaster risk reduction, and climate change Gender Action Plans (ccGAPS).

IUCN calls for integrating nature-based solutions into international, national and subnational climate policy and action. IUCN provides examples of best practices, relevant knowledge products and a solid body of information to underpin evidence-based policy options.

For a more comprehensive list of all climate-related IUCN resolutions since 1988, please click here

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