20 Nov 2015


WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), two of the largest conservation organisations in the world, are joining forces to enhance and promote the role of protected areas at a critical time in the planet’s history.

The partnership was announced today on the first anniversary of the IUCN World Parks Congress, which took place in November 2014 in Sydney, and could lead to some of Australia’s most iconic protected areas being recognised on the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas.

The partnership will promote the role of protected areas in safeguarding the many values of nature and achieving sustainable development over the next 10 years. It comes at a time when IUCN Director General Inger Andersen has said: “Our planet is at the crossroads, and there is a closing window of opportunity to define the path to a sustainable future.”

The World Parks Congress culminated in the Promise of Sydney, which included a commitment to invest in protected areas that help to halt biodiversity loss, mitigate and adapt to climate change, reduce the risk and impact of disasters, improve food and water security, and promote human health and dignity.

Under the new partnership, WWF and IUCN will:

  • Expand the number of protected areas reaching IUCN Green List quality standards to at least 1000 protected areas in 50 countries, by ensuring that these areas meet the Green List criteria;
  • Seek the application of more than AU$2 billion of new investment finance in the enhanced performance and sustainability of these protected areas;
  • Generate at least 20 new ambitious protected area commitments from each of the 50 countries identified, which benefit wildlife and to advance the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

“The Promise of Sydney calls for a rebalancing of the relationship between human society and nature. The new partnership between WWF and IUCN responds to this call in its drive for stronger, fairer and better financed protected area systems on land and sea,” said Rod Taylor, Director of WWF’s Global Forest Programme.

The IUCN Green List of Protected Areas identifies places where wildlife is benefiting from greater habitat protection, and shows that well-managed protected areas not only bring conservation benefits but also social, economic and cultural benefits.

Currently, Australia has only three protected areas on the IUCN’s Green List but WWF-Australia is calling for more to be added, including all of Australia’s World Heritage-listed national parks. These include the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the Greater Blue Mountains, and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, among others.    

“We hope this partnership will see the number of Australian protected areas on the IUCN Green List increased to at least 20 over the next five years,” said WWF-Australia spokesperson Dr Martin Taylor.

“By highlighting the ecological, social and economic benefits of protected areas, the new partnership aims to make an evidence-based case for direct investment in protected area systems, including those in Australia, which provide a critical safety net for wildlife at a time of increasing threats, not least from climate change."

“Unfortunately, federal funding for strategic growth of protected areas in Australia was axed in 2012 and has not yet been restored, and as a result hundreds of threatened native animals and plants continue to slide toward extinction due to lack of habitat.”

Penelope Figgis AO, Vice Chair for Oceania of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), which is responsible for the World Parks Congress, said the two organisations would work towards restoring national funding for protected areas in Australia. 

“The global partnership announced today will be paralleled in Australia by strong efforts to renew bipartisan support for protected areas as a key strategy to protect our unique species and healthy ecosystems,” Ms Figgis said.  

“Protected areas bring enormous benefits to all Australians and to our native wildlife at a time of increasing threats, just as they do for people all over the world."

“These protected areas are not just nice to have; for much of the world they are a matter of life and death, especially as climate change and resource scarcity impacts on the safety and security of millions of people.” 

WWF-Australia Media Contact:

Charlie Stevens, Senior Communications Officer