Excitement, purpose guide mountain town climate summit in Aspen

Arn Menconi
Special to The Aspen Times
The Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership got right to business with panels including this one with Gloria Schoch, senior director of global impact for the VF Corp. and executive director of the VF Foundation; Rebecca Gillis, state and local government affairs manager for the Outdoor Industry Association; Steven Skadron, vice president and campus dean of Colorado Mountain College Aspen and Carbondale; and Doreen Robinson, head of biodiversity at UN Environmental Programe.
Photo by IISD/ENB

Mayor Torre was excited on Tuesday to welcome the world of mountain towns to Aspen.

“This is hands down the biggest climate event ever in Aspen,” he said. “Bringing the event to Aspen is because of a lot of hard work from Aspen International Mountain Foundation, which has been at the table on regional, national and international solutions.”

Delegates are here for the Sixth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership. It is the only United Nations voluntary alliance of partners dedicated to mountain peoples and environments, with over 450 members from 96 countries, including national and local governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, private sector businesses and nonprofits. the first time in North America for the United Nations alliance Mountain Partnerships Mountains Matter Ideas to Action.

Its main role is to facilitate dialogue on priority issues faced by mountain peoples and environments. The pillars of the work of the alliance are advocacy, capacity development, communications and knowledge management as well as joint projects among members.

“Mountains occupy about a quarter of the Earth’s land, harbor most of its biodiversity hotspots and supply fresh water to an estimated half of humanity. Mountains include a multitude of ecosystems …. Mountain regions are particularly sensitive to degradation from both human pressures and climate change,” as the United Nations’ website puts it.

Italy was one of Mountain Partnership’s founding members and a donor to its Secretariat, based at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ headquarters in Rome, Italy.

Livio Spadavecchia, Italy’s counselor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained the importance he places on the summit: “We are sharing best practices in solutions for the ecosystems because mountain towns have unique needs. It’s so important to prioritize restoration and sustainable agriculture and to enhance communities. Without livelihood being cared for these communities can’t work on their basic needs.”

Aspen was the first local municipality in the United States to set a climate action plan and the first U.S. government to join the Mountain Partnership.

Outdoor sports

“The outdoor industry is a $689 billion industry and creates 4.3 million jobs, which is bigger than the agriculture, pharmaceutical, or automotive industry nationally,” said Conor Hall, director of the state Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “Outdoor recreation industry accounts for 18% of the jobs in Colorado at 511,000 and, in 2017, was estimated at putting $37 billion into our economy. Protecting and preserving the outdoors preserves and sustains our state’s economy.”

“We need to get out of the environmental bubble. Climate change affects all sectors of society,” said Doreen Robinson, head of biodiversity at the UN Environmental Programe. “Twenty-seven percent of the planet are mountains, yet 24 of 35 are biodiversity hotspots. We wanted to focus on the outdoor industry because of its focus on nature. COVID showed us the emergence of people from urban areas getting out more. There’s more of an appetite from the outdoor industry.”

 “There is this common ground interest of preserving the outdoors. We utilize this voice outdoors to local, state and federal governments. If we all surround behind this common goal, we all win,” said Rebecca Gillis, state and local government affairs manager of the Outdoor Industry Association. “The outdoor industry has a special passion-driven place in society, and we have a purpose to work on behalf of all.”

Gloria Schloch, senior director of global impact at VF Foundation, focused on climate justice, saying, “The power of our youth and the next generation show there’s a more inclusive and diverse population getting into the outdoors. How do we inspire the next generation to become conservationists? Creating a sense of belonging for all in the outdoors is a powerful tool for building climate advocates everywhere.”

For more information on Mountain Partnership, go to 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development 2022.


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