Contracting Parties and observers to the Convention on Wetlands met in Wuhan, China and Geneva, Switzerland from 5 to 13 November for the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP14).
With the theme: ‘Wetland Action for People and Nature’, COP14 saw representatives from 146 Contracting Parties and 55 observer organizations convene to negotiate 24 draft resolutions aimed at strengthening Parties’ conservation and wise use of all wetlands. COP14 was hosted by the People’s Republic of China, with negotiations taking place in Geneva, Switzerland due to the ongoing COVID situation.
The Wuhan Declaration: reaffirming the urgency to act for wetlands
On 6 November, the day before negotiations began, the COP14 host country convened a High-Level Ministerial Segment, which saw 24 ministers and ambassadors highlight achievements and priorities in their wetland conservation agendas. The session closed with the ministers and ambassadors adopting the Wuhan Declaration: a statement of political will to mobilize more resources for wetland conservation; integrate wetland protection and conservation into sustainable development, climate and biodiversity plans and national policies; and support stronger protection of wetland protection through legislation. Setting the scene for negotiations, the Declaration acknowledges the urgency to halt and reverse wetland loss as the most vulnerable of ecosystems, with the strongest values for climate mitigation, adaptation, biodiversity and sustainable development.
Wetland action for climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience
Overlapping with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, COP14 saw Parties putting the need to enhance wetland conservation for climate on the agenda. They negotiated and adopted a resolution to recognize wetlands’ potential as nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches for climate mitigation and adaptation. Encouraging Parties to improve their knowledge base and policies for wetland extent and condition, the resolution encourages the Secretariat, Parties and the Science and Technical Review Panel to collaborate with Ramsar Regional Initiatives, partners and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements to facilitate a community of practice on addressing climate change, while providing biodiversity and benefits for human health and wellbeing.
Integrating wetland conservation into sustainable development strategies
Recognizing the breadth of ecosystem services provided by wetlands including water and food security; hydrological and climate regulation, Parties adopted a resolution encouraging Parties to integrate wetland conservation, restoration, sustainable management and wise-use actions into national sustainable development strategies. These include national plans to protect and restore biodiversity under the Convention on Biological Diversity and nationally determined contributions submitted under the UNFCCC to tackle climate change.
Stronger multilateral collaboration to mainstream wetland conservation
To enhance wetland contributions for global climate, biodiversity and sustainable development agendas, COP14 resolutions made frequent reference to the need for the Convention to strengthen cooperation with related multilateral organizations and agreements, including the UNFCCC, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Further, Parties adopted Resolution XIV.18, recognizing the important need to increase cooperation, coordination and synergies between the Convention on Wetlands and related institutions to maximize contributions towards the forthcoming post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the UNCCD and its Land Degradation Neutrality Targets.
A call to connect with youth
The first of its kind, Parties to the Convention on Wetlands adopted a resolution to strengthen the participation of young people and other under-represented groups in the Convention on Wetlands. Submitted by Australia and Costa Rica, the resolution acknowledges the importance of inclusive participation and intergenerational equity to achieving wetland conservation and sustainable development. Parties commended the work of Youth Engaged in Wetlands which connects youth around the world and provides a platform for their work to drive wetland conservation. Parties are encouraged to strengthen their engagement with youth groups and ensure opportunities for partnerships, collaboration and career development for young people engaged in wetland conservation.
Strengthening scientific and technical aspects of the Convention
With strong provisions for measuring wetland extent, ecological condition and data collection throughout the resolutions, COP14 saw a number of resolutions adopted that will help to strengthen scientific and data aspects of the Convention. Foremost among these is a resolution setting out a number of high priority tasks for the Convention’s Science and Technical Review Panel (STRP) for the 2023-2025 triennium. These include:
- setting out a mandate for a new Global Wetland Outlook as part of the next work cycle of the STRP;
- providing further guidance on criteria for designating wetlands of international importance;
- developing tools for wetland ecological assessment and monitoring, including climate impacts;
- assessing the financial costs of wetland loss and degradation;
- preparing guidance to measure wetland values for climate change, landscape management and biodiversity conservation;
- supporting the integration of blue carbon in climate change planning frameworks; and
- developing guidance on the conservation and wise use of wetlands for coastal management.
Other resolutions adopted, including one on enhancing the conservation and management of small wetlands and one on water bird population estimates, demonstrate Parties’ concerns about the steep decline in wetland biodiversity. These resolutions emphasized the need for Parties to ensure accurate and robust data to more effectively manage wetlands and enhance the protection of vulnerable populations of wetland-dependent species.
A new Ramsar Regional Initiative for mangroves
Recognizing the importance of mangroves for biodiversity, carbon capture and coastal protection, Parties adopted a resolution recognizing that a Ramsar Regional Initiative focused on mangroves and coastal blue carbon ecosystems can build regional cooperation for conserving these ecosystems. The Parties’ proposal to establish a new International Mangrove Centre will be considered at the next meeting of the Standing Committee.
Setting out a new triennium
Just a month into her new term as Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands, Dr Musonda Mumba, said "COP14 has shown Parties and partners are deeply committed to protecting and restoring wetlands, our most valuable ecosystem for overcoming the triple planetary crisis. With 21 resolutions adopted, the Convention has a strong mandate to enhance conservation, restoration and wise use of wetlands through the next triennium. This means broadening its important work to include youth, Indigenous People and local communities, science communities, civil society -- and connecting with global multilateral processes to deliver climate, biodiversity and sustainable development outcomes for all".
All final resolutions adopted at COP14 will be found here.