International Conference 

International Conference

“Mountains: energy, water and food for life.
The SHARE project: understanding the impacts of climate change”

27-28 May, 2009

VENUE: Circolo della Stampa  Palazzo Serbelloni
Corso Venezia, 16 -  Milano

A Conference organized by:
Ev-K2-CNR Committee, Milan Municipality - Commission for Mobility, Transportation and the Environment, Milan-Expo 2015 Committee, CNR- Italian National Research Council

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Context and Background:
Over the past six years, since the declaration of 2002-International Year of Mountains by the United Nations and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, thanks to greater global environmental awareness and significant developments made in high altitude scientific research, the recognition of mountain environments as some of the world’s most important ecosystems has increased dramatically.  Already at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, Chapter 13 of Agenda 21 confirmed the need for sustainable development in mountain regions, given mountains’ crucial role as sources of water, energy, biodiversity, minerals, forest products and agricultural products.  10% of the world's population depends directly on mountains, especially for freshwater, while millions more benefit indirectly from such mountain resources.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed that climate change is not only happening, but that global warming is affecting many physical and biological processes, which in turn affect the availability of water resources, food security and human health. Mountain ecosystems were identified in a recent report of the General Assembly of the United Nations as key indicators of such effects of climate change, especially in terms of vulnerable resources like biodiversity and water. 

Over the past century, the size of glaciers in the Alps and the Caucasus mountains has been reduced by half.  In Africa, only 8% of the largest glacier in the mountains of Kenya still remains. If this trend continues, by the end of the 21st century, many mountain glaciers will have completely disappeared, and along with them, vital sources of freshwater.  The Himalayan glaciers, like those of the Alps, the Andes, etc., act as water towers for entire populations. These frozen reservoirs not only provide water for drinking and cooking, but also for irrigation and livestock, industry and hydro-electric power to millions, if not billions, of people.  Furthermore, winter and summer mountain tourism, a primary source of livelihoods in many mountain regions, also depends on the state of the environment, with its increasingly unpredictable climate trends and widely changing seasonal variations.

Mountains constitute an extraordinary platform for monitoring climate change and its effects. They can be considered representative of vast spatial areas, areas often only theoretically uncontaminated. Furthermore, mountains themselves influence local and global climates, although their role in this sense is not entirely understood. Only through high altitude research and environmental monitoring might we increase our knowledge and help guide future policy choices to ensure the conservation and sustainable development of mountain ecosystems, key to our wellbeing on the planet.

Governments, local administrators, international organizations and the scientific community all need reliable information on the health of mountain environments so as to develop strategies that might reverse the trend of global warming, or at least mitigate its worst effects.  Scientific researchers have a responsibility to the public to raise awareness on the implications of climate change in mountain areas.  Their role in helping define policies for integrated mitigation and adaptation actions cannot be underestimated.

In Lombardy, highlands constitute over 40% of the region, while in Italy they make up the three quarters of the country (hills: 41.6%. mountains: 35.2%). On a global level, mountains amount to 25% of the Earth’s surface.

At the 2015 World Expo, with its focus on food security and other major environmental issues, the important role of mountains cannot be ignored.  Climate change is first and foremost among the Expo topics that could benefit from the contributions made by mountain research, as are other key themes central to Italy’s motivation to host the Expo. Italy’s Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, has declared that these global problems, already subject of intense international debate, will take center stage when Italy hosts the 2009 G8 meeting as well.  Those issues include:

o    Environmental protection
o    Sustainable development
o    Renewable energies
o    Protection of biodiversity
o    Combating desertification
o    Prevention of natural disasters
o    Access to water for all

The problem of food security must be dealt with as a basic prerequisite to sustainable development.  In order to address this issue, however, we need to better comprehend climate change processes and their impacts on ecosystems and environmental services in order to develop appropriate adaptation strategies at the local, national and global levels.  A thorough understanding of our changing climate and the effects on fragile ecosystems and natural resources will only be possible if research and monitoring data from mountain areas is taken into account.
Finally, it is also significant that 2015 marks the year by which 189 governments of the world agreed to meet the Millennium Development Goals and Expo 2015 will certainly be used as an opportunity to showcase Italy’s contributions to their achievement.  In line with the “No Excuse 2015” Campaign, which testifies that the goals are realistic and achievable, Italy therefore has an obligation to make sure all steps it takes between now and 2015 move in the direction of specific MDGs, like Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger, and Ensuring Environmental Sustainability.

What we propose:
Ev-K2-CNR Committee, in collaboration with the City of Milan and the Municipal Commission for Mobility, Transportation and the Environment, the National Research Council (CNR)  intends to help pave the way towards the 2015 Expo.  With their SHARE program, Ev-K2-CNR are world leaders in integrated environmental research and monitoring in mountain areas.  By directly involving researchers, scientific and public institutions and other stakeholders in discussions on the world’s major environmental challenges, chances of improving environmental governance are greatly enhanced.

By raising awareness and sharing information on the effects of climate change on mountain ecosystems and resources, significant progress can be made towards sustainable decision-making on issues such as development, biodiversity, food security and renewable energy.  This can be achieved in the framework of a high level international scientific conference, involving top researchers, concerned policy makers and the public in a milestone event on the road to 2015.

Contribute to the  understanding of current and future climate change processes, so as to predict possible environmental, economic and social impacts, in particular on agriculture, trade and the health and wellbeing of millions. By promoting management-oriented research, driven by decision makers in line with local sustainable development needs, demonstrating Italy’s commitment in this sense through the SHARE project and promoting dialogue and exchange amongst international studies, networks and programs.

Strategy: By promoting management-oriented research, driven by decision makers in line with local sustainable development needs.

Target Audience: The conference will be mainly composed of representatives of the international scientific community, along with contributions from government and intergovernmental agencies.  Appropriate global media coverage will be key to simultaneously help raise public awareness.       

Sotto l'Alto Patronato della Presidenza della Repubblica
Ministero dell'Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare
Ministero degli Affari Esteri
Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca

Patronages with contribution:
Regione Lombardia - Culture, Identità e Autonomie della Lombardia
Regione Lombardia

UNEP - United Nations Environment Program
FAO - With the technical cooperation of the Food and Agricolture Organization of United Nations

Gruppo A2A S.p.A

Mountain Partnership
Planet Earth

"Mountains: energy, water and foof for life. The SHARE project: understanding the impacts of climate change" Secretariat:
Emanuela Brindisi
Comitato Ev-K2-CNR
Via San Bernardino 145
24126 Bergamo - Italia
Tel: (+39) 035 3230522
Fax: (+39) 035 3230551

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