Mountains and islands – COP23


Mountain governments, institutions and NGOs explored issues in Bonn, Germany related to climate change adaptation and management as well as sharing experiences between the Mountain Partnership and Global Island Partnership, alliances that address the effects of climate change on vulnerable ecosystems. Organized within the framework of the Mountain Partnership, the official side event “Mountains and Islands: building a coalition for vulnerable ecosystems” was held on 16 November 2017 alongside the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP23).

Opening the side event, moderator Grammenos Mastrojeni, Assistant Director General, Coordinator for the Environment, Italian Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy and Vice Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee, reminded the audience about the many ways in which mountains and islands are similar. Both mountains and islands host high amounts of biodiversity, both cover large areas in reference to the terrestrial land and ocean surfaces, and both are places in which vulnerable ecosystems overlap vulnerable communities. For these reasons, the Mountain Partnership and Global Island Partnership are working together to build a coalition.

Launched in 2006, the Global Island Partnership has been looking at working more closely with the Mountain Partnership over the last five years because of the similar interests the two alliances have. Being from New Zealand, a mountainous country and island, Kate Brown, Coordinator and Executive Director, Global Island Partnership, says she sees how important both ecosystems are to the people that live in those places. The Global Island Partnership is currently working to identify which islands have mountains and to create a list of mountainous islands. Although there has not been a natural coming together of the two communities in the last three years, Brown says she wants the Global Island Partnership to continue working together with the Mountain Partnership to see what practical things the two alliances can achieve. “I think it’s the responsibility of people like us, in partnerships and initiatives who have the ability to reach across communities, to try to do that, and we’re going to continue trying to do so,” said Brown.

Representing the government of a mountainous island country, Marilyn Headley, Chief Executive Officer and Conservator of Forests, Forestry Department, Jamaica, presented the country's efforts to conserve forest ecosystems and mainstream climate change adaptation into its national development processes. After discovering that the land cover percentage of closed broad leaf forests in Jamaica had decreased by 0.04 percent between 1998 and 2013, Jamaica implemented several strategies to protect this important and vulnerable ecosystem. The forested lands owned by the private sector were identified, and the owners were contacted and educated about the importance of their closed broad leaf forests. If they declared their properties protected, they received a property tax remission. The Forestry Department also worked with 18 indigenous communities living close to these forests to guide them in their role as forest protectors.

Ali Raza Rizvi, Programme Manager, Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) Global Ecosystem Management Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), shared the actions IUCN is taking to tackle climate change in fragile ecosystems, including mountains and islands. With offices in 55 countries, IUCN is one of the leading organizations on EbA. Through their extensive work, IUCN has come to realize how hybrid solutions for the environment work best. "We can't achieve resilience in a vacuum. It is critical to have healthy ecosystems and access to resources. Having an integrated approach contributes to economies," said Rizvi.

Providing insight from the perspective of a resource partner, Felix Diesner, Programme Officer, International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature, Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, explained that the communities living in the area need to be directly involved in the projects. He also highlighted the utmost importance of having the support of local and regional political leaders from the beginning. In closing, he underlined how relevant it is to have an alliance for mountains and islands. “Islands, mountains, drylands, the Arctic – these are the areas suffering the most. These are the ones that can be destabilized by climate change. If we ignore them, we cannot win the 1.5-2 degree fight. Without them, it is impossible for the whole community to respect that threshold.”

It is important to remind ourselves of what is at stake if climate change is not addressed in mountains and islands. With a background in biology, Andrew Taber, Executive Director of The Mountain Institute (TMI) and Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee, underlined how species living on mountain tops without higher altitudes to migrate and animals on islands that go under water will be lost. He added, “There are people living in these places that have been living in difficult conditions, and we need to enable them to survive.”

In the discussion that followed, participants expressed their excitement to see islands and mountains coming together. The question of how to implement projects on climate change in mountains and islands was raised, considering how mountains are often only a portion of a country’s territory. Ecosystem-based adaptation and getting people together as a group with one voice were suggested as possible solutions.

This event was convened by the Government of Jamaica and TMI and co-organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

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Watch the event 

Photo: FAO/Tomek Kozlowski

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