L-R: Andrew Deutz, The Nature Conservancy; Promod Dass, RAM Rating Services Berhad, Malaysia; Matt Jones, UN-Environment WCMC; Anna Gray, IPIECA/CSBI; and Oshani Perera, IISD
The Rio Conventions Pavilion (RCP) convened for its first day on Saturday, 17 November. The afternoon session explored the role of sustainable infrastructure in linking major themes and targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), among other conventions.
The RCP was opened by Cristiana Pașca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the CBD, who remarked that the Pavilion represents a concrete way for collaboration between the three Conventions, established in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. In addressing the infrastructure theme, Pașca Palmer noted that smart infrastructure choices can contribute to human development in line with environmental targets, whereas poor choices can lock-in unsustainable patterns for decades.
Carlos Manuel Rodriquez, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, discussed how his country worked on improving the critical corridors used by jaguars. He explained that the infrastructure sector worked with private sector to design an effective corridor.
Shirley Trundle, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), United Kingdom (UK), spoke about the UK’s program titled ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment.’ Trundle pointed out that the UK Government is committed to leave the environment in a better state than we have found it, and part of this is engaging local people and communities to explain the kind of place they want to live in. She said targets and plans would be set accordingly.
Margaret Kinnaird, WWF, warned that linear infrastructure poses a real threat to both tiger and pandas. She said that while the population of tigers is increasing in certain areas, there is no time for complacency and road development must attempt to preserve important corridors for pandas and tigers. Kinnaird provided the example of China’s National Highway 108 (G108) where WWF worked with the Government of China to restore a corridor used by pandas. She explained how working with government and having community participation allowed for the highway to both be restored to an efficient state, and is no longer a physical barrier for pandas.
Kirsten Probst, GIZ, discussed lessons learned by GIZ in strengthening climate resilience via ecosystem restoration and management. She said GIZ aims to influence key national and international actors in infrastructure planning and development to better account for climate change risks earlier in the existing strategic planning process.
Bruce Dunn, Asian Development Bank, outlined the Asian infrastructure demand between 2016 and 2030. He said this demand equates to US$26 trillion with potential impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems. To move upstream and to bring biodiversity into the mainstream, Dunn recommended: better screening and baseline studies; better project design; more capacity; and finance.
Fernando Camacho, National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), talked about the costs of natural disasters and the necessity to insure coral reef health for coastal resilience in Mexico. He noted that hurricanes are the main driver for loss of live coral cover in the Caribbean. To address this, Camacho underscored the need for science, capacity, financial instruments and pilot projects.
Rob Ament, The Center for Large Landscape Conservation (CLLC), said that in discussing infrastructure, the focus should not just be on roads but new rail tracks; he said addressing roads without addressing rail tracks will not improve the situation.
Ashley Brooks, WWF, described the vast landscape tigers require noting that though the numbers of tigers are increasing along the Terai Arc Landscape, the total territory they occupy is decreasing.
Lazaros Georgiadis, Infra-Eco Network Europe (IENE) encouraged the development of an international strategy for sustainable infrastructure participation engaging different stakeholders.
Oshani Perera, IISD, presented the Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi), which quantifies the extent to which environmental, social and economic risks and externalities affect the financial performance of infrastructure assets.
Marco Lambertini, WWF, summarized the presentations and discussions from the day by noting that the theme of sustainable infrastructure can be addressed under three issues. He explained the first issue is a cultural one, and that the environment needs be part of thinking within classrooms, boardrooms and infrastructure ministries. Lambertini said highlighting the risks and impacts of natural capital could do this. He said the second issue was that environmental consideration is taking place too late in the planning process, and that this should no longer be the case given the wealth of data and information available today. Finally, he said the third issue, was that we need to be honest about what we build, noting in conclusion “if you cannot build it well, do not build it. Transformation can be the solution.”
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