A Blue Solution for a Code Red Climate: Tangible and Concrete Ocean Action at COP26

By Student Delegate Heidi Johnson

Upon entering the oval office, President Biden returned the U.S. to the Paris Agreement and committed to reducing emissions while keeping “the 1.5-degree goal within reach.” The administration’s sense of urgency has increasingly escalated in the months since. Just last week, President Biden visited five states, including New York, New Jersey, Idaho, California, and Colorado, to survey the effects of climate change in those states. What he witnessed led him to declare a “code red” moment.

A code red moment is certainly warranted. Scientific research shows that as global average temperatures continue to rise, the planet is experiencing dangerous shifts in climate and weather. For instance, “oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea level is rising.”  A report also provides evidence that suggests a link between climate crisis intensity and violence against land and environment defenders.  Global Witness data confirm that last year was “the most dangerous year on record for people defending their homes, land and livelihoods, and ecosystems vital for biodiversity and the climate.” Global Witness reported that 227 people were killed for defending land and the environment—the highest number ever recorded.  Further, all but one defender attacked was from the Global South.

Source: SeyCCAT.org

Amid the unrelenting global effects of our climate crisis, coastal wetland loss stands out. In the past century, about 50 percent of coastal wetlands have been lost due to coastal development, pollution, rising seas, and warming oceans. As a result of wetland loss, islands are losing vital ecosystems. Yet, nature-based solutions remain largely untapped. For instance, one potential nature-based solution is “blue carbon,” which refers to ocean biomass, including mangroves, seagrass meadows, and salt marshes. Blue carbon ecosystems play important roles in climate change mitigation and adaptation by offsetting carbon capacity, protecting communities, and promoting biodiversity. As understanding of these crucial ecosystems remains limited, wetland loss continues to accelerate.

This adverse climate crisis effect underscores the need for a heightened sense of urgency. In a recent White House briefing on the Biden administration’s climate policy, a senior official shared that the administration is “grateful to be working with the European Union and partner countries towards a collective global goal.” Even so, the official noted that the administration’s most significant challenge heading into COP26 is ensuring that all leaders come to COP26 not only with a greater sense of urgency “but with tangible and concrete actions to demonstrate what we’re doing to respond to that urgency.”

As the senior Biden administration official noted, COP26 leaders can demonstrate their commitments by enhancing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Indeed, the Seychelles’ 2021 NDC is exemplary. It incorporated blue carbon, dedicating an entire chapter to the matter, and it explicitly committed to send mangrove and seagrass data to the United Nations. In its NDC, Seychelles also committed to mapping and assessing blue carbon habitat capacity and to establishing a long-term monitoring program for seagrass and mangrove habitats by 2025. Seychelles aims to protect the benefits of blue carbon in its own waters while advancing the global understanding of blue carbon ecosystems. Hence, Seychelles’ NDC serves as a quality example of how COP26 leaders can commit to tangible and concrete actions that demonstrate an urgent blue response to a code red crisis.


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  10. Seychelles’ Updated Nationally Determined Contribution, Republic of Seychelles (July 30, 2021), https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/ndcstaging/PublishedDocuments/Seychelles%20First/Seychelles%20-%20NDC_Jul30th%202021%20_Final.pdf


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