On November 08, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) released the whitepaper Opportunities for coral reefs at the ocean-climate policy nexus to support discussion around the ocean as a major carbon sink, and the role of healthy coral reefs in increasing productivity and biomass in adjacent blue carbon ecosystems, at COP26.
Francis and Tom collaborated with WCS, and contributing authors, to produce this strong white paper that summarises the scientific and policy consensus at the ocean-climate nexus alongside recommendations for national governments and other stakeholders. Specifically the whitepaper hones in on the role of coral reefs and closely associated tropical coastal ecosystems in climate change processes, and explicitly identifies gaps within key intergovernmental climate and biodiversity policy frameworks that must be addressed to maximise their potential as nature-based solutions during a key decade of conservation action.
The authors convey 4 key messages:
- The ocean is a major carbon sink and absorbs ~30% of anthropogenic carbon emissions. Key marine ecosystems, like intertidal mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and tidal/salt marsh ecosystems sequester and store carbon at similar rates as intact forest and peatland ecosystems. Healthy coral reefs increase productivity and biomass of these “carbon sink” ecosystems.
- Coral reefs are critical for biodiversity and people, but are often overlooked in international climate policy and national climate commitments because they are not technically a ‘blue-carbon’ ecosystem (i.e. a carbon sink).
- The Paris Agreement and its ‘ambition cycle’ look beyond mitigation opportunities (e.g. blue carbon) to also address adaptation issues — which is critical for both coral reefs and blue carbon ecosystems. However, there is room for more robust guidance on how to maximize opportunities for coral reef-related adaptation for key countries.
- There is also lots of opportunity to identify and build on synergies between the climate and biodiversity regimes. While in the near term, Parties can maintain momentum by explicitly mentioning the ocean-climate-biodiversity nexus in the official decision at COP26, Parties can also unilaterally improve their climate commitments and plans, including to strengthen links between coastal mitigation and adaptation strategies and new biodiversity strategies in line with the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
And call for:
- Parties to maintain momentum by explicitly mentioning the ocean / climate / biodiversity nexus in the official decision at COP26, and;
- For parties to unilaterally improve their coastal commitments and plans, including strengthening the links between coastal mitigation and adaptation strategies and new biodiversity strategies in line with the post-2020 GBF.
The International Coral Reef Initiative’s (ICRI) contribution to this Whitepaper was facilitated through Francis, Tom’s role in supporting the ICRI Secretariat. This contribution was in collaboration with WCS, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Rare, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Vulcan, Hakai Institute, Duke University.
You can download, read and share the Whitepaper at: wcs.org/coral-climate-paper