Conservation congress begins in Hawaii

IUCN World Congress 2016 logo.png

A quadrennial gathering of government leaders and civic activists aimed at developing an agenda for environmental protection got underway in Hawaii Wednesday and President Barack Obama was in Honolulu to welcome the event to the United States.

More than 8,300 delegates are participating in the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Congress. They represent 184 countries.

They are expected to focus on four key priorities: climate change, ocean conservation, private investment in conservation activities, and wildlife trafficking.

Obama put the spotlight on climate change during his address Wednesday to the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, which is also happening in Honolulu:

“When it comes to climate change, there is a dire possibility of us getting off course, and we can’t allow that to happen. That’s why our united efforts are so important. Government has a role to play, but so do scientists and inventors and investors, all working to revolutionize clean energy production. Entrepreneurs and academics and leaders in this room are collaborating across continents. And everyday citizens of the world are going to have to push their own communities to adopt smarter practices, and to push those of us in positions of power to be less concerned with special interests and more concerned about the judgment of future generations.”

The first full day of events  will occur on Friday. Among them will be a press conference that discusses the findings of the Great Elephant Census, a project that counted 93 percent of all elephants in Africa.

The GEC found that far fewer African elephants than previously thought are roaming the continent, with only about 352,000 remaining in all African countries covered by the study. That represents an estimated 30 percent decline between 2007 and 2014.

Other events will highlight updates to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, report on the extent to which the planet’s oceans are warming, and name new Marine Hope Spots.

The latter are areas of the oceans designated by the conservation advocacy organization Mission Blue as being particularly needful or worthy of protection. The concept was proposed by oceanographer Sylvia Earle in a 2009 TED talk.

According to a description of the program posted on the Mission Blue website, Marine Hope Spots are those that exhibit:

  • Particular populations of rare, threatened or endemic species
  • A site with potential to reverse damage from negative human impacts
  • Spectacles of nature, e.g., major migration corridors or spawning grounds
  • Significant historical, cultural or spiritual values
  • Particular economic importance to the community

Delegates are also expected to vote on a number of motions aimed at putting the IUCN World Congress on record in support of particular policies. Those are expected to include a plea for all nations close domestic markets to ivory, increase protection for pangolin species, improve forest conservation practices, and work toward improvements in the system for preserving biological diversity outside of national borders.

The last IUCN World Congress was held in 2012 on Jeju Island, South Korea.

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