As the world’s leaders descend upon Glasgow this week for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), there is a renewed sense of accelerated global climate action in the air.
The global community will present on accelerated action towards the 2015 Paris Agreement, with the ultimate aim of securing global net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Reduction of polluting emissions and increases of global climate targets and climate finance contributions are all on the table for negotiation over the next two weeks.
At GOAL Global, we see the global response to Covid-19 as an opportunity for the global community to adopt a cohesive approach to climate action. Such an approach can provide an avenue to integrate climate objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and take collective action for food systems that are more equitable, resilient, and sustainable – putting the health and sustainability of the planet and its most vulnerable people at centre stage. As notable marine biologist and oceanographer, Sylvia Earle, stated, “No Water, No Life, No Blue, No Green.”
Increase Focus on the Blue Economy
One such response should be an increased investment in the sustainable Blue Economy – the use of ocean resources to improve economic growth and livelihoods while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems. Biodiversity and sustainable development are key to the future of climate action, sustainable food systems, and poverty reduction. GOAL Honduras’ sustainable Blue Economy programme, ‘MiPesca’, is a prime example.
The MiPesca approach recognises the importance and value of small-scale fisheries and addresses the multiple challenges and opportunities presented by the blue economy. Operating in La Mosquiitia, a region of tropical rainforest, mangroves, and marshland in eastern Honduras, MiPesca aims to increase the resilience of small-scale fisheries by developing a sustainable market system. This has been effective in reducing poverty for approximately 25,000 people locally, while conserving the coastal ecosystem on which the fishing community depends.
Conservation of biodiversity in coastal-marine regions acts as a critical cog in the climate action wheel. Oceans are great regulators of climate, absorbing 23% of annual CO2 emissions and 90% of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gases. Marine ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and saltmarshes act as a blue carbon sink and are 10 times more effective at absorbing carbon emissions than terrestrial forests.
Blue carbon is one of the few saving graces we have, acting as one of the greatest contributors to climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is therefore crucial that we see a significant increase in climate financing towards the development of sustainable blue economies. This week’s COP26 presents the best opportunity for the global community to do just that.
Our Role in Change
Tangible political commitment has already been seen at last week’s UN Biodiversity Conference, COP15, which saw the creation of the Kunming Biodiversity Fund. 195 participating countries pledged to mobilise financial resources to support biodiversity in the Global South. This was a particularly encouraging outcome, and hopefully an indication of greater cohesion in tackling global issues following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last week GOAL welcomed the Irish government’s budgetary commitment to increase investment in Official Development Assistance (ODA) by €140 million in 2022. This was a clear signal of Ireland’s global solidarity and Irish Aid’s continued commitment to sustainable development and climate action. Ireland’s annual climate finance contributions should, however, be additional to ODA funding, ensuring that resources for sustainable development and humanitarian action are not reduced. We look forward to welcoming Ireland’s renewed commitments at COP26 and increased climate financing with a focus on the sustainable blue economy.
Alas, all the political will in the world won’t sustain without support from we, the people. That is why GOAL’s Global Citizenship programme works to foster a sense of empathy and interconnection with people and planet among the Irish public. Activities like our #Connected2 campaign and Water Wishes primary school resource, developed in collaboration with GOAL Honduras, encourage people, young children and young adults in particular, to interrogate how global issues such as climate change and food systems are connected, how people themselves are connected and to recognise their roles in bringing about change.
Through this, we hope to build an awareness and understanding that our actions here in Ireland can have a direct positive, or indeed negative, effect on the rest of the world – ultimately creating a new generation of informed global citizens to act as stalwarts of our planet.
Mary Van Lieshout is Deputy CEO and Director of External Affairs at GOAL.