Climate change and wetland conservation workshop, Kushiro, Japan, 2001

20/09/2001

Because, owing to many previous commitments, the Ramsar Bureau was unable to participate in the International Workshop on Climate Change and Wetland Conservation, Kushiro, Japan, 20-21 September 2001, Dr Taej Mundkur of Wetlands International, one of the Convention's International Organization Partners, agreed to make a keynote workshop presentation on behalf of the Ramsar Convention, in addition to his own contributions to the meeting, and to provide this statement from the Secretary General to the high-level segment of the meeting.


The Ramsar Convention, international cooperation, climate change and wetlands

Statement by Mr Delmar Blasco, Secretary General, Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) to

The International Workshop on Climate Change and Wetland Conservation, Kushiro, Japan, 20-21 September 2001

It is a great pleasure to congratulate the National Institute for Environmental Studies of Japan, the City of Kushiro, Kushiro International Wetland Centre and Wetlands International Japan for their initiative in holding this climate change and wetlands workshop on an issue of great importance to the Ramsar Convention and to the future health of our global environment.

The Ramsar Convention is the oldest of the global intergovernmental environmental conventions, and was agreed in Ramsar, Iran, on the 2nd February 1971. Since then it has grown and matured into a powerful global mechanism that assists countries to maintain the vital role wetlands play in ensuring the health of the environment and its peoples, and that the great wealth of vital goods and services that wetlands of many different types provide continue to be available. There are now 127 Contracting Parties to the Convention. They are committed to the three main pillars of the modern Convention: the wise (i.e. sustainable) use of all their wetlands; the designation and safeguard of wetlands of international importance – "Ramsar sites" (of which there are now 1082, covering over 82 million hectares, including 11 Ramsar sites in Japan); and international cooperation.

International cooperation is vital to ensuring the safeguard of the world’s wetlands, through joint action between countries on shared wetlands and river basins and on migratory species, through the sharing of information and expertise, in ensuring international assistance fully incorporates the wise use of wetlands, and through the Convention’s increasingly close collaboration with other environmental conventions and agreements, notably the Convention on Biological Diversity (with whom we are currently developing a 3rd Joint Work Plan), the Convention on Migratory Species, the World Heritage Convention, the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Ramsar’s Contracting Parties have recognised the very great significance of climate change and its implications for their efforts to safeguard the wetlands in their care. To help them address climate change issues they have requested for their consideration at the 8th meeting of the Conference of Parties (Valencia, Spain, November 2002) a comprehensive review of the impacts of climate change on wetlands and the roles that wetlands can potentially play in mitigating the effects of climate change and sea level rise. This report is being prepared by the Convention’s Scientific and Technical Review Panel, working with members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe it will make a very important contribution to ensuring the wetlands, and their many values and functions in relation to adaptation and climate change mitigation, for example in the role of peatlands as carbon sinks, are fully taken into account in the future implementation of the Climate Change Convention and its protocols. The report will also contribute to our development of international cooperation and joint action betweeen the Ramsar Convention and UNFCCC.

It is with regret that the Ramsar Bureau has been unable to participate directly in your workshop, but I am most pleased that Dr Taej Mundkur of Wetlands International, an International Organisation Partner of the Ramsar Convention, is able to represent Ramsar. I wish you all success in your debates and look forward to seeing the outcomes of the workshop and its contribution to international cooperation on climate change and wetlands.

Delmar Blasco
Secretary General
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

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