CEEweb for Biodiversity

Since 1992, when chapter 13 on mountains as fragile ecosystems was introduced in Agenda 21, the demand for goods and services from mountains has grown considerably. Moreover, the ability of mountain systems to provide essential goods and services for all of people and ecosystems is increasingly under threat from climate change, globalization, ongoing land degradation, a chronic lack of sustainable investment and unsustainable pattern of resource use.

The CEEweb for Biodiversity, a network of more than 60 NGOs in Central and East Europe, and Mountain Partnership members recognize that despite the progress that has been made in promoting sustainable development of mountain regions, national and international development agendas still treat mountains as marginal environments. As a result, e.g. poverty rates and depopulation are higher than in non-mountain areas. In particular, mountains are increasingly threatened by unsustainable investments, e.g. in tourism infrastructure. After 20 years of declarations, there are only single but no concerted actions in place driven by the United Nations System or Governments responsible for mountain ecosystems.

In the context of a Green Economy, new opportunities for investments by the private sector are emerging in mountain regions, especially in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and ecosystem goods and services. However, innovative institutional arrangements are urgently required to trigger governance models and decision support systems aiming at both the integration of the social, ecological and economic capital at all scales in mountain regions, as well as the actual mainstreaming of mountains into overall national and regional development and conservation processes, such as in the Carpathians and the Alps with a number of legally binding protocols (e.g. on tourism, biodiversity).

Enhancing the global political commitment that translates into increased sustainable investments tailored to mountain regions will directly benefit poor mountain communities and indirectly humanity as a whole. Hence, sustainable mountain development, notably through integrated and socially inclusive policies, as well as low carbon technologies, should have a prominent place in the Rio 2012 agenda and in particular in its final declaration. To achieve these ends strong and united advocacy for mountain issues with tangible results in future UNCSD negotiations is essential.

In the past 20 years the global sustainable development process has become a unique policy making platform under the umbrella of the United Nations. Notwithstanding all the efforts made in its framework, there are several symptoms today, which warn us that we need more significant changes in the way we tackle socio-economic and environmental issues on global levels. We see worsening trends both in social and environmental fields. Since the world’s carrying capacity was exceeded1, we have been accumulating ecological debt with many- decade-long payback period. This has led to the degradation of 60% of ecosystem services globally2, which, however, underpin wellbeing for all. Population boom, expected to result in a population of 9 billion people within four decades further lowers the chance of stepping to the path of sustainability within the current framework and poses far bigger challenges to tackle.

These phenomena prove that we manage our common goods (natural resources and land) in an unsustainable way and we cannot share the benefits arising from these resources equitably at national, as well as global levels. This has serious consequences not only for the global ecosystems, but also for poverty eradication, international relations, security or long term economic viability. Even though these problems have been apparent for many decades, our responses failed to tackle the problems within the current socio-economic framework. As the recent report of the International Resource Panel3 points out, in order to tackle to resource overuse on global level and not to put further pressure on ecosystems, an absolute and radical reduction is needed. This requires new paradigms and holistic approach, since one cannot solve the problems with the same kind of thinking one used when creating them.

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