Held every four years, IUCN’s congress is perhaps the closest we have to a global environmental parliament in which governments and NGOs collectively define the latest issues on the conservation agenda. Each congress sees the adoption of a number of Resolutions and Recommendations that guide conservation policy and action, with over 1000 resolutions having been adopted to date. It was in 1960 that IUCN members called attention to the impacts of climate change decades before it was recognised as a major issue, while the 1969 congress helped lead to India’s ‘Project Tiger’ which is credited to have saved the Bengal tiger.
As such the congress provides a fascinating litmus test of the global conservation agenda. So what does the 2012 congress agenda tell us about the green economy? Do conservationists see it as a viable tool for protecting ecosystems and biodiversity?
The topic of a green economy features prominently on the congress agenda as one of the ‘World Leaders’ Dialogues’ and three of the motions being put forward by members relate specifically to the opportunities and challenges posed by a green economic transformation.
The first motion requests that the Director General ‘positively consider and utilize green growth in implementing the values and conservation of natural resources world-wide’ and ‘prepare political and systemic foundations of green growth’, ‘prepare an evaluation tool to regularly measure and review the implementation of green growth based on the conservation of natural resources’ and ‘prepare strategies to deliver green growth’. The motion is being sponsored by the Nature Policy Division of the Ministry of the Environment, Republic of Korea and is supported by Korean based NGOs and institutes.
A second motion put forward by local authorities in Spain and a collection of other NGOs calls on the EU Member states and sub-national governments to promote programmes to support private sector initiatives as a means of creating ‘green jobs’, which contribute to the success of the measures taken to conserve the protected areas.
A third motion sponsored by Bolivia based Liga de Defensa del Medio Ambient addresses the role of Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility. It stresses that while CSER programmes have proliferated they are being all too often used as a green-washing tool by companies keen to clean up their image. The motion urges the Director General ‘not to sign any agreement with companies if they do not comply with the social and environmental regulations of their countries of origin’ and ‘urges governments to exercise control over CSER programmes and prevent them from replacing compliance’.
Taken together, these three motions go to the heart of the green economy discussions. How can we tap into the potential offered by a different economic pathway, one that can utilise the potential of the private sector and generate new jobs and greater economic resilience, while also putting in place clear and strict rules to govern the transformation? These issues are being explored by groups all over the world including members of the Green Economy Coalition. The response to these motions at the IUCN congress will provide a fascinating insight into how leading conservationists are responding to this rapidly changing agenda. So, do check out the world congress website and join the debate.
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