Protecting snow leopards, nature’s vanishing treasures

Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) – Steering Committee Meeting.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan : Ms. Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme addressing the meeting.
The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program is a powerful alliance. UNEP is proud to partner with you. My thanks go to snow leopard range states and to local civil society partners for striving to protect snow leopards and mountain communities.

The snow leopard is vital to the integrity of the mountain ecosystems that sprawl across Central and South Asia. And the mountains themselves are vital to the snow leopard and to people. For example, over 8,000 glaciers in Kyrgyzstan feed freshwater systems in the region, including in Uzbekistan. People and snow leopards are in this together.

Due to the snow leopard’s reclusive nature, we don’t know how many remain. But we do know there are not enough. And we know why populations are dwindling. Mountain ecosystems are under pressure from the triple planetary crisis: the crisis of climate change, the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss, and the crisis of pollution and waste. Habitats are shrinking. Climate change is reducing prey populations. Poaching and human-wildlife conflict have taken a toll. But coexistence is possible. Coexistence is essential. Coexistence needs strengthened partnerships between governments, civil society and local communities.

Conserving the snow leopard – and indeed all large cats and all species under threat – is a UNEP priority. With funding from Luxembourg and Germany, we are implementing the Vanishing Treasures and Central Asian Mammals and Climate Adaptation initiatives. These initiatives aim to conserve and restore mountain pastures in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. My thanks to the governments of these countries.

We are supporting climate-adapted practices to maintain productive rangelands. Such as pasture management and rotational grazing. Providing better science and monitoring to local communities allows them to adjust these practices and reduce human-wildlife conflict. Practices need enabling policies. So, we are working to strengthen climate-smart landscape policies that can be harmonized across countries.

Many other partners are putting in often great and valuable work. But we all need to do more. To go further, together, we must do four things.

One, enhance transboundary cooperation.
This event comes on the side-lines of COP-14 of the Convention on Migratory Species. COP-14’s theme is Nature Knows no Borders, for good reason. The snow leopard doesn’t care where one country ends, and where another begins. Nations too must work across borders. Cross-border collaboration on infrastructure, for example, must go hand in hand with ecosystem restoration.
Two, scale up action through nature-positive investments.

The global community has yet to finance commitments to restore hundreds of millions of hectares of degraded land, including in mountain ecosystems. Public and private investment needs to step up. So, protecting what remains and restoring what we have degraded, are the key actions.

Three, ensure strong cooperation between Multilateral Environment Agreements.

The Rio Conventions on climate, biodiversity and land degradation, alongside many other agreements, provide frameworks to end the triple planetary crisis. We must ensure we have a collective toolbox packed with policies that ensure mutual success. The second phase of Vanishing Treasures, which began this year, takes this approach by supporting partner countries’ efforts under the Rio Conventions.

Four, invest in science and innovation.
The impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on mountain communities and species are not fully understood. Science is the best guide for impactful investments in our common sustainable mountain future.
The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program brings prioritization; the program brings action; the program builds platforms for cooperation among partners; the program brings focus and shines a light on the imperative of habitat conservation.

We at UNEP are proud to be part of this mission to secure healthy mountain habitats for snow leopards and people. You can count on our continued support.


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