Strategies and policy recommendations were formulated on the best approach to managing protected areas in the region and for each project country. Existing protected areas and their management plans have been reviewed for each country, and in particular any reference related to climate change, as well as current plans to design and establish new protected areas. On this basis, regional and national strategies were developed for climate change mitigation and adaptation with regards to protected areas, and policy recommendations were formulated on ways and means to implement the strategy. This included ways to integrate recommendations in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Below is a summary of the adaptation strategy and policy recommendations for the West Africa region and for the five project countries.
REGIONAL STRATEGY FOR WEST AFRICA
Key findings: The regional strategy and policy recommendations have been developed to allow countries in the region to implement actions which contribute to the strategic goals of the national strategies of the five project countries. Notably, key conservation features that require protection at the regional level have been highlighted. Regional cooperation for the planning and management of PAs in the face of climate change is also recommended.
The regional strategy and policy recommendations were developed to serve as an authoritative point of reference and communication tool to ensure coherence in the implementation of the national strategies, as well as coordination and networking. These regional tools will facilitate (i) the harmonization in legislations and institutions (e.g., interoperability of clearing house mechanisms and data management), particularly for transboundary PAs; (ii) the mobilization of financial resources; (iii) the implementation of human and technological capacity building programmes; and (iv) reporting processes. Regional policy instruments will also have to be developed in response to needs identified in regional policy documents, such as the AMCEN draft Comprehensive African Strategy on Climate Change, or in the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA) under the CBD, and in related decisions of the CBD Conference of the Parties.
Elements of the regional strategy, which was validated in consultations held in seven countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, The Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal and Togo) will:
a. Provide for countries in the region to implement actions relative to the national strategies under Strategic Goal 1 'Ensure that features identified for conservation when existing PAs were established are really protected to give them enough chances to adapt to the actual and future impact of climate perturbations' and Strategic Goal 2 'Design PAs in anticipation of the impact of climate change taking into account, in particular, the changes in species ranges in response to climate change and using the findings from the PARCC project';
b. Lead to the identification of features that would require priority protection at the regional level, and the determination of levels of protection that would enable each conservation feature to resist or remain resilient to climate change, as well as agreement on the contribution of each country taking into account its priorities and resources; and
c. Promote regional cooperation for the planning and management of climate change resilient PAs. Cooperative programmes should be developed around strengthening human capacities with support from regional banks and/or regional economic organizations. The strategy also encourages the harmonization of policies, legislations and institutions dealing with PAs (with some focus on transboundary PAs) and climate change matters, including clearing-house mechanisms, databases and stations collecting and analysing climate data.
The implementation of the regional strategy that describes the best approaches to the planning and management of PAs in the face of climate change will support mobilization of additional financial resources. These resources will support the implementation of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas, and related national plans of action, in which all the aspects of climate change impacts will be taken into account. It will also require wide consultation in the region including with organizations that could anchor the strategy and policy recommendations in their processes. Marine and coastal PAs, which could not be fully considered in the project, should be integrated in any future plans, as they are important for the sustainable development of some of countries in the region and can also be very vulnerable to climate change.
Key findings: The national strategies and policy recommendations have been developed to ensure the effective uptake and use of the project outputs by the countries. The proposed elements of the adaptation strategies for each country include three strategic goals and eleven objectives, and have been developed taking into account existing adaptation activities.
The five project countries (Chad, The Gambia, Mali, Sierra Leone and Togo) have a rich biodiversity which provides important services for the well-being of their populations. In order to protect this natural capital for present and future generations, these countries have established protected areas that cover 10.2%, 6.4%, 6.2%, 4.1% and 14% of their respective terrestrial national territories. However, these PAs are under significant pressure, largely from deforestation and over-harvesting, changing land-use patterns resulting in habitat degradation and fragmentation. Furthermore, it is increasingly recognized that climate change is exacerbating these pressure on PAs. Climatic disturbances can indeed make PAs unsuitable for the features that they are supposed to protect, particularly where protected species affected by climate change are moving outside PAs in search of more favourable climatic conditions.
Consideration of climate change is therefore essential to maintain PAs effectiveness in time and space. Before joining the PARCC project, these five countries had not yet taken into consideration the full range of current and future climate change impacts in their PA plans and programmes. The PARCC project achieved a number of goals for PA programmes in West Africa including (i) collating climate data and future climate change projections, (ii) modelling the expected future distributions of bird, mammal, and amphibian species, (iii) evaluating the vulnerability of species to climate change impacts, (iv) identifying areas resilient to climate change that would be beneficial to protect as climate refuges for flora and fauna, and (v) designing systematic conservation planning systems incorporating the information mentioned above. These systems allowed to carry out gap analyses of the representation of conservation features in existing PAs and the identification of priority areas for protection, i.e., where new PAs could be established, where existing PAs could be extended and where connectivity corridors could be established or restored.
The development of strategies and policy recommendations for each country is intended to ensure an effective uptake and use of the PARCC project outputs. Elements of the strategies and policy recommendations have been proposed for each of the pilot countries and discussed with national experts. These elements are based on the results and conclusions of the PARCC project and were articulated around the common points of the five countries, so as to facilitate their aggregation in a West African regional strategy.
The proposed elements of the adaptation strategies for each country include three strategic goals, eleven objectives, and depending on the country, 39 to 42 specific actions. The objectives and specific actions have been identified taking into account the ongoing or planned activities in the respective countries. The visions proposed for the national strategies are the same or part of the visions that countries have set in the context of their sustainable development plans or national biodiversity strategies. The objective is to ensure the integration of all aspects of the impact of climate change in PA planning and management.
Strategic goal 1 relates to strengthening ongoing conservation plans and programmes and their implementation so as to improve the performance of existing protected areas (PAs) and, except for Togo, relates to finalising the designation or regulation of areas identified as requiring protection including, as appropriate, currently unprotected important areas for birds and biodiversity, unclassified forests and Ramsar sites. Without protection today, the biodiversity elements that are threatened or vulnerable will have little or no chance to survive the impact of climate change. Rather than expanding its PA system, Togo decided to restore and secure 13 of its PAs (10.21% of the national territory), not only to ensure their effectiveness, but also to improve the living conditions of the populations dependent on these PAs. Implementation of this strategic goal will essentially require that existing and new PAs are made more effective, that the lists of features to be protected are revised, taking into account the sustainable development goals and the national strategies for poverty reduction, and that gap analyses using the new lists of conservation features are conducted.
Strategic goal 2 regards the anticipation of climate change impacts and the proactive response to ongoing and future environmental changes. This implies that knowledge about the observed and projected impact of climate change is increased, particularly at the local level; that areas naturally resilient to climate change and areas that will include the future geographical distribution of displaced species are managed effectively, restored if needed, and connected.
Strategic goal 3 addresses the creation or strengthening of the enabling environment for a successful implementation of national strategies. This includes the integration of elements of these strategies into wider strategies, plans and programmes. This relates particularly to the CBD NBSAPs, some of which are still being updated, and the NAPAs, expected for revision after the 21st meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, and the national Sustainable Development Goals that the countries will soon develop. In addition, building on ongoing activities including the training activities initiated within the PARCC project, Strategic goal 3 contains provisions for integrating elements of Strategic goals 1 and 2 in countries' human, financial, institutional, legislative and technological capacity building programmes and communication, education, research and public awareness programmes. Mobilization of financial resources is a priority. Considering the cross-cutting nature of climate change, Strategic goal 3 emphasizes coordination and cooperation within the countries and the region, especially across borders through the transboundary PAs programmes.
The main actors for actions under each strategic objective, as well as related policy recommendations, where appropriate, were identified mainly during the expert consultations. Ways and means for the implementation of the strategic elements, including the principles of national strategies, recommendations for a participatory planning and implementation, and the establishment of institutional frameworks for monitoring, evaluation and reporting, have been proposed.