International Mountain Day at COP 28: Mountains gain momentum


Healthy and resilient mountains as key for adaptation to climate change was the main message at a high-level event at the UN Climate Change Conference COP 28 on 11 December 2023.

On International Mountain Day (IMD), government and United Nations representatives, youth and Indigenous Peoples from mountainous regions worldwide gathered to discuss the IMD 2023 theme “Restoring mountain ecosystems” and highlight solutions to the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation in mountains.

“Healthy mountains contribute to greater biodiversity, food security and high-quality global freshwater supplies,” highlighted Rosalaura Romeo, the event’s moderator and Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS) at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). She also underlined the heightened interest in mountains at COP 28, emphasizing the role of the Five Years of Action for the Development of Mountain Regions (2023-2027) as a crucial framework for accelerating action for mountain environments and communities.

Setting the tone for the high-level segment, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu delivered a video message emphasizing that ecosystem degradation is not only a nature crisis but also a food security crisis. FAO is the lead agency on mountain issues and the coordinating agency for the annual IMD celebration on 11 December. It is mandated to lead the observance of this day at the global level.

Nurlan Aitmurzaev, Special Representative of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic on Mountain Issues, stressed the importance of impactful advocacy at the global level to attract new investments and initiatives for mountains. He stated, “The Kyrgyz Republic is advocating for the urgent establishment of a global dialogue to examine the critical relationship between mountains and climate.”

Francesco Corvaro, Special Envoy for Climate Change for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, pointed out that restoring mountain ecosystems also means protecting the cultural heritage of mountain communities. He said, “Mountain regions are a place where culture and traditions of Indigenous Peoples need to be preserved.”

Carles Miquel, Director for Energy and Transportation for the Secretary of State for Energy Transition, Transportation and Mobility of Andorra, shared that the Government of Andorra, together with other mountainous countries, has been working to mainstream mountains within the UNFCCC framework. As a result, mountains, high-latitude areas, and the cryosphere have finally been declared a priority thematic area for 2024 within the Nairobi Work Programme – a workstream of the UNFCCC.

Bruno Pozzi, Deputy Director of the Ecosystems Division of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), launched the new publication Restoring mountain ecosystems, jointly published by the MPS at FAO and UNEP. He focused on the fundamental role of healthy mountains for climate change adaptation, resilient livelihoods and biodiversity. “We can restore the mountainous ecosystems, bring back biodiversity, and reclaim the world’s attention to these ecosystems,” Bruno stated.

Mountain knowledge and resilience

Tara Gujadhur, Co-Director of the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in the northern region of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, shared insights on the importance of mountain knowledge and resilience. Tara put a spotlight on the Oma people, a community of 3 000 individuals who are primarily rice farmers with a strong tradition in textile production. Tara also described the threats the Oma people face to their cultural identity and preservation, emphasizing their deep commitment to sustainability and environmental preservation. Tara underlined the significance of passing down traditions and knowledge to younger generations to build resilience and keep the cultural fabric intact.

A youth call for action

The event concluded with a strong call to action from 17-year-old student Manan Nailwal Girish Chander of Jumeirah College in the United Arab Emirates, a participant in the Zero Water Day Partnership. Manan highlighted mountains as the world's water towers and the lifeblood of our planet. Manan called for collaboration in environmental advocacy that recognizes the challenges of pollution, mining and landslides in mountainous areas. Manan urged participants to empower youth as guardians of mountains, stating, “The greatest threat to the planet is assuming someone else will save it."

In closing, Rosalaura Romeo reiterated the unprecedented presence of mountains at COP 28, calling for continued collaboration to build on this momentum and to keep mountain ecosystems on the map. Resilient and restored mountain ecosystems not only help mitigate the impacts of climate change and the related risks but can also boost economic growth and livelihood diversification, something that is greatly needed in mountains.

The event was organized by the MPS and was held at the Food and Agriculture Pavilion. The Mountain Partnership is a global alliance of over 500 members that empowers mountain communities and promotes sustainable mountain development.

Watch the webcast
View the Flickr gallery

Photo credit: ©David Goff/Analog Production for FAO, IFAD, CGIAR, Rockefeller Foundation

More on this topic

Website: International Mountain Day 2023
Report: Restoring mountain ecosystems
Newsroom: COP28: Resilient and healthy mountain systems are key to climate change adaptation and mitigation
Story: Proof that restoring mountain ecosystems works
Press release: COP28: FAO marks International Mountain Day 2023 with focus on restoring ecosystems

Home > mountain-partnership > News