Ramsar address to the UNFCCC's 12th SBSTA meeting, 13 June 2000


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unfccctr.gif (4969 bytes)Statement to the 12th meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Bonn, Germany, June 2000

By Dr Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971).

Agenda item 10. Cooperation with relevant international organizations

Mr Chairman and distinguished delegates,

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to make this statement on behalf of the Contracting Parties of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. I would like to report to you on the progress and activities of the Ramsar Convention on issues of wetlands and climate change since the 11th meeting of your Subsidiary Body. I hope you will agree on the importance of the continuing efforts to strengthen cooperation between our Conventions in pursuing these issues of common interest to our governments.

Signed by 18 countries in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971, the Convention on Wetlands is the oldest of the international environmental conventions. Since its inception, the Ramsar Convention has matured into a highly effective, action-based Convention that has assembled an impressive "toolkit" that provides practical guidance and assistance on its implementation by governments, international organisations and local stakeholders.

The focus of this "toolkit" lies in the transfer of best practice guidance to on-the-ground action to address the many pressing issues that affect the capacity of wetlands, both inland freshwater and coastal and marine ecosystems, to deliver their vital services and benefits to people. Strong amongst these issues are those concerning the impacts of climate change on the wetlands and, in turn, the importance of wetlands in contributing a vital role in mitigating climate change and its impacts.

Several decisions of our 7th Conference of Parties in Costa Rica last year identified linkages with the Climate Change Convention as a high priority, in recognition that the goals of sustainable water and wetlands use can no longer be achieved without taking climate change and its impacts into account. These are particularly in relation to the integrated management of river basins, the development of global action for the management of peatlands, and the increasing vulnerability of small island states.

The 7th Conference of Parties of the Ramsar Convention placed a priority on the development of practical actions between environmental conventions in areas of common interest, and in particular to explore such synergies with the Climate Change Convention. At the 11th meeting of your subsidiary body you requested the Climate Change Convention Secretariat undertake such liaison to determine how cooperation between the Conventions could be strengthened.

In support of this discussion, in December last year the Ramsar Bureau (the Convention’s secretariat) presented to the 5th Conference of Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change a discussion paper on "Wetlands and Climate Change" prepared for Ramsar by IUCN – The World Conservation Union. This identifies a potential framework for cooperation between our Conventions, and notably between our subsidiary scientific bodies and IPCC, and between our respective secretariats. The review identifies three broad themes of common interest. These are: predicting and monitoring the impacts of climate change on wetland areas; the role of wetlands in adapting to, and mitigating the impacts of, climate change; and the role of wetlands in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We are now taking forwards discussion on how best to turn this proposed framework into tangible actions.

Several current activities under the Ramsar Convention relate directly to these common interest themes.

Our Contracting Parties have requested our subsidiary body, the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), to prepare for their next Conference of Parties in 2002 a comprehensive review of the potential impacts of climate change on wetlands, and of the roles that wetlands can potentially play in the mitigating the effects of climate change and sea level rise. The work of SBSTA, and of IPCC in preparing its Third Assessment Report, can clearly make a substantive contribution to this review. As a Convention Ramsar believes that this work can also make a significant contribution to elaborating the roles and importance of wetland management and restoration in the promotion of adaptive strategies through the Climate Change Convention.

The STRP is also preparing further guidance to Contracting Parties on wetland risk assessment, including the use of early warning indicators, for inclusion on the Ramsar "toolkit". This work is particularly relevant to the areas of work in your agenda on technology transfer, adaptation and capacity building; and the guidance will critically need to incorporate the best available knowledge on assessing risk from the impacts of climate change.

Our Convention believes that establishing direct working relationships between the SBSTA and the IPCC with our Scientific and Technical Review Panel would greatly assist such work on topics of common interest. We consider that this would yield substantial benefits in ensuring that the best possible, and consistent, advice is made available to our governments.

I hope that this gives you a flavour of the considerable potential and benefits to our governments to be gained from a strong working partnership between our respective Conventions. I urge you to support and encourage taking the steps needed to further the development of this partnership.

Thank you.

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