Natural protected areas help keep carbon emissions low by sequestering huge amounts of carbon and avoiding “carbon debts” caused by deforestation.
Ecuadorean delegates urged leaders at the COP 21 climate summit in Paris to recognize natural protected areas as a key part of building resilience in the face of climate change and tackling global warming.
The delegation argued that protecting forests and conserving other natural areas are among the best ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions, a crucial task in the fight against climate change.
According to Ecuador’s biodiversity and protected areas director, Francisco Prieto, protecting natural areas is not only essential to wildlife habitats and ecosystems, but also human health given the adverse affects of climate change, worsened by deforestation, Prensa Latina reported.
Ecuador is home to a stunning biological diversity. The Yasuni National Park in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest alone is the natural habitat for over 200 mammal species, almost 600 birds, over 250 amphibians and reptiles, and thousands of plants. But many species throughout the country are also increasingly in danger due to climate change.
Aside from protecting vital wildlife habitat and ecosystems, natural protected areas also help keep carbon emissions low. Clearing mature forests, which sequester huge amounts of carbon, releases carbon into the atmosphere and wipes out future carbon storage, often permanently. Clearing rainforests and other tropical habitats like grasslands and peatlands creates a major “carbon debt” that could take as long as centuries to repay – clearly too late for urgent action on climate change.
Ecuador is on the front lines of urging rich, industrialized countries historically responsible for fueling climate change to pay climate reparations to poorer countries in the global south to settle historical climate debts and help fund a global transition to clean energy.
Ecuador also reitered the united postition of Latin American and Caribbean states that COP21 must conclude with a legally binding agreement that limits global warming to a maximum temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The 1.5 degrees Celsius limit is a more ambitious target than the previously sought-after 2 degrees Celsius limit that scientists say is the breaking point that would cause irreparable and catastrophic damage. Many climate scientists have said that 1.5 degrees Celsius should be the limit, as vulnerable low-lying coastal communities and poor, southern countries are already being hard-hit by climate change.
The latest draft text of the COP21 deal leaves the question of global warming limits unresolved, as 2 degrees and 1.5 degrees Celsius as potential “options” on which leaders must still reach an agreement.
Climate scientists estimate that without drastic change, the planet is on course to easily surpass the 2 degrees Celsius limit at hit at least 3 degrees Celsius global warming.
The draft climate deal also does not make any explicit reference to natural protected areas and is considered by civil society advocates to lack a holistic view on ecosystem protection.
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