By Student Delegate Isabella Smith
Collaboration and creativity are crucial to developing and implementing blue Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. That was the major takeaway from COP26’s blue carbon panel with four major leaders in the blue carbon field. On Thursday, Minister Flavien Joubert of Seychelles, Vice Minister Cynthia Barzuna Gutierrez of Costa Rica, Minister Andrew Perez of Belize, and CEO Angelique Pouponneau of SeyCCAT met to talk about blue carbon protections in NDCs and enhancing ambition through nature-based solutions. The experts shared a lot as the three nations paved the way with ambitious blue goals and detailed action plans.
First, each speaker shared how their already distinctive successes would continue to develop over the next decade. Minister Joubert announced that Seychelles’ seagrass and coastal wetlands protections would reach 50% by 2025, and 100% by 2030. Minister Perez stated that Belize’s NDC would double mangrove protections by 2025 and add another 6 hectares by 2030, while simultaneously restoring thousands of hectares of mangroves. Vice Minister Gutierrez declared that Costa Rica is closely committed to the 30×30 goal, and with 27% of their lands already protected, their focus is now on the ocean. Angelique added that from her perspective as the CEO of SeyCCAT, she has found that the most critical part of making these plans a reality is partnerships and incorporating stakeholders into the process.
All of the leaders echoed the same sentiments. To design effective commitments, they must be both ambitious and realistic. This requires listening to local stakeholders, transferring knowledge between the experts in any given field and the locals who know the land, incorporating all sectors into decisions, and forming partnerships based on mutual respect. Angelique described how people were usually not familiar with the crucial importance of the blue carbon resource at the beginning of her seagrass projects. But after engaging with locals through social media, conversation, seagrass art, and poetry competitions, and getting hotels and businesses involved – Seychellois now not only know all about seagrass but cherish its value. Carrying out these grassroots interactions is deeply intertwined in the success of meeting NDC goals.
Additionally, each leader described the critical importance of sustainable financing. All leaders reiterated the popular opinion that there is a call on developed nations to step up and support the efforts of developing countries and small island nations in particular. However, they had specific ideas on how to carry out that common position. Minister Joubert and Angelique spoke about how financing does not always need to be from the government, it can also be private. Angelique suggested leveraging public funds to attract more long-lasting private finance. Minister Gutierrez also made clear that the current finance mechanisms need to be innovated and updated, to make it more efficient and transparent. Angelique put it best, “Conservation without funding, is just a conversation.”
At the end of the discussion, when asked what they would say to leaders just now looking to create bluer NDCs, each stated that the framework is already here. Belize, Seychelles, and Costa Rica have created three similar but unique models for quickly and efficiently addressing the ocean-climate nexus. As Angelique said, “don’t be scared, just follow the blueprint.”