On the face of it, this may seem like an insurmountable challenge, especially when many of these areas are already being degraded by resource extraction, unchecked infrastructure development and a host of other threats.
But in fact, protected areas in their many forms – including national parks, marine reserves and community conserved areas – can be a powerful engine for sustainable economic development.
Protected areas provide jobs and a source of livelihood to millions around the world. They sustain the burgeoning tourism industry, and protect resources essential for forestry, fisheries, agriculture and other key economic sectors. Nature-based tourism is worth more than $30 billion a year to the Australian economy, equivalent to the annual GDP of Albania.
Protected areas are a key part of the world’s natural capital - capital that delivers some of the highest returns on investment. Instead of depleting this natural capital, we must act as its trustees and ensure it is well managed to avoid paying a huge ecological debt in the future.
The IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in November will look at the ways in which governments and businesses can integrate protected areas and conservation into policy and planning and ensure that wise trade-offs are made in development decisions.
This month IUCN experts are attending the annual meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. They will recommend action to tackle major threats to natural World Heritage sites including iconic sites such as Doñana National Park in Spain, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and Virunga National Park in DRC.