G20 on Environment supports the creation of an International network of environmental experts in UNESCO sites

23/07/2021
15 - Life on Land
17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Naples - July 22 - The Environment Ministers of G20 member states, meeting in Naples, supported the Italian initiative establishing a UNESCO Network of international environmental experts across all UNESCO designated sites around the world - biosphere reserves, Global Geoparks and natural heritage sites. This network aims to strengthen training in the restoration and conservation of ecosystems.

Entitled “UNESCO Earth Network”, this initiative is a major axis of UNESCO's strategy for Biodiversity, which seeks to educate and train a greater number of professionals and local populations to address environmental challenges, in addition to the proposed target to preserve 30% of land and seas as protected areas by 2030 which will be submitted to Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity at COP 15 in Kunming, China.

We have a unique opportunity to draw inspiration from the Network of sites designated by UNESCO to rethink our relationship with nature. Supporting and training youth in ecosystem restoration and conservation, in the transmission of a living natural and cultural heritage, is essential.

Ms Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, in her message to the G20 Summit

The post-2020 agreement proposes to reach the threshold of conserving 30% of the planet in protected areas - but UNESCO has long raised the alarm regarding of the fate of the remaining 70% and the need for a global training and education programme. which would extend far beyond site designations.

UNESCO’s ambition is to sensitize and train 100% of the world's population to environmental challenges, so that each individual is able to become a guardian of our Earth. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which celebrates 50 years of action for the planet this year, has identified sustainable models in which human activities develop in harmony with all forms of life. These biosphere reserves already protect more than 5% of the Earth's surface. These sites are helping to reach the 30% target by 2030. Above all, they are a source of inspiration to develop more environmentally friendly models everywhere on Earth and to rethink our relationship with nature.

For example, the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve, located on the southern coast of South Africa, is the only place in the world where three recognized biodiversity hotspots converge (Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Maputoland-Tongoland-Albany). Faced with deep-rooted socio-economic challenges including high unemployment, widespread poverty and sprawling informal settlements, its “Jobs for Carbon” project focuses on restoring the badly degraded succulent Spekboom (Portulacaria afra), which has a natural capacity to store large amounts of carbon, and generates income through the sale of carbon credits.

The network of experts will support capacity for ecosystem management and restoration in UNESCO sites, adaptation of ecosystems to the effects of climate change and support for youth and local communities.

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Photos: Roberto Cingolani, Italian Minister for Ecological Transition, and Chair of the G20 on Environment, Climate and Energy, and Shamila Nair Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO
Top photo: G20 Environment, Climate and Energy - Italy 2021 (CC-BY 3.0)
Second photo: Credit UNESCO