Ramsar statement to UNFCCC's Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, 2003


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unfccctr.gif (4969 bytes)Statement to the 18th Session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Bonn, Germany, 4-13 June 2003

Agenda item 8. Cooperation with relevant international organisations

Statement from the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

by Dr Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General

Mr Chairman and distinguished delegates,

Thank you for the opportunity to make this statement, which will briefly update you on the work of the Ramsar Convention on issues of climate change and wetlands. In particular I will outline the decisions on these matters made by our 8th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Ramsar COP8), held in Valencia, Spain in November 2002, and the work of the Convention's subsidiary Body, the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP).

Since its agreement in 1971, the Ramsar Convention has developed into an effective, action-based treaty, now involving 136 countries worldwide. The Convention advocates and supports action to manage sustainably the world's wetlands as vital resources providing many goods and services critical to people and their environment.

The Convention's Parties at COP8 recognised the issues of synergies between Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and of climate change, as high priorities, and gave them substantive debate, recognising that the goals of sustainable use of water and wetlands cannot be achieved without taking into account climate change and national responses to it, and that to deliver this therefore needs increasing collaboration on implementation at the national level as well as at the global scale.

The importance of enhanced collaboration between MEAs at both national and international level was recognized by COP8 through a decision concerning "Partnerships and synergies with Multilateral Environmental Agreements and other institutions" (Resolution VIII.5), which called for implemention of the Convention's Operational Objective on these matters in the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008 adopted by COP8. This urges actions to strengthen cooperation and synergies in global technical and scientific processes and at national level through the focal points of our respective instruments.

In that respect, we welcomes Ramsar's participation as observer to the CBD, UNFCCC and UNCCD Joint Liaison Group as a mechanism for establishing such further cooperation, and we also welcome your upcoming workshops on Synergies and cooperation with other conventions", to which we anticipate contributing.

The Ramsar COP8 debate on climate change was informed by a technical report on "Climate change and wetlands: impacts, adaptation and mitigation", prepared by an expert Working Group of our STRP, which included contributing authors on wetlands to the IPCC's Third Assessment Report, and which drew on the wetland-relevant information in the TAR as well as other sources.

The report:

· identified that a number of types of wetland ecosystem are amongst those recognized as particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change;
· highlighted the fundamental importance of maintaining hydrological regimes as a key adaptation option; and
· focused on opportunities for managing particular wetland ecosystems, notably forested wetlands, peatlands and coastal wetlands, to mitigate climate change impacts.

Parties at COP8 also emphasised the important role of coastal wetlands in mitigating impacts of climate change and sea-level rise in the context of achieving integrated coastal zone management.

COP8 adopted a Resolution on climate change and wetlands (Resolution VIII.3). This decision calls on Parties to:

· manage their wetlands so as to increase their resilience to climate change and extreme climatic events;
· promote restoration and improved management of peatlands and other wetlands that are significant carbon stores, or have the ability to sequester carbon;
· undertake studies of the role of wetlands in carbon storage and sequestration and in mitigating impacts of sea-level rise; and
· pay special attention to the need for building and strengthening institutional capacity and synergies between our related instruments so as to address the linkages between climate change and wetlands, including through the mechanism of focal points' participation in National Ramsar Committees.

Importantly, Ramsar Parties - your governments - also recognised the potential for conflicting challenges for governments in meeting their commitments to implementing UNFCCC and, where appropriate, the Kyoto Protocol, through revegetation and forest management, afforestation and reforestation, and their commitments to the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. COP8 urged Parties to ensure that their climate change implementation does not lead to serious damage to the ecological character of their wetlands.

Through this Resolution our Parties also invite you and the IPCC to focus some of your future work on issues related to region-specific wetland data, and to improve knowledge of the vulnerability of wetlands to climate change, and has requested our STRP to assist you in any such work. To contribute to this, a current task for the STRP is to prepare a report on vulnerability assessment methodologies, including case studies, for wetlands in relation to climate change and other impacts.

Ramsar's Parties at COP8 also requested the IPCC, as part of its future work, to prepare a Technical Paper on the relationship between wetlands and climate change, for consideration by the STRP and, if possible, by Parties at Ramsar COP9 in 2005 - an approach endorsed by the recent 11th meeting of our STRP.

We will be discussing with the IPCC and UNFCCC secretariats as to how this work might be undertaken in the context of your future priorities and the preparation of the Fourth Assessment Report. Our STRP stands ready to assist in any such work, and to respond to the request from our Parties to collaborate with you and the IPCC in your future work so as to promote the management of wetlands and mitigation of climate change impacts, particularly in the context of land use, land use change and rising sea levels, forestry, peatlands and agriculture.

Mr Chairman,

Yesterday we celebrated World Environment Day in this International Year of Freshwater. You are being invited here to recognize the important contribution that climate change policies can make in strengthening global efforts to supply the world's poor with freshwater. Sustaining healthy wetlands, to which Ramsar Parties are committed, is vital to this effort since it is the wetlands that capture, purify, store and provide this essential supply of water.

We believe that our Convention's work at COP8 has significantly progressed the identification and focus of such issues of common concern to our Conventions and their subsidiary bodies. We look forward to implementing these opportunities for strengthening, in practical ways, this collaboration, so as to support our respective Parties in their national responses to climate change, wetlands and water security.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

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