Nature-based Solutions are key to reviving Oceans and Coastal Ecosystems
This World Ocean Day, we highlight the crucial role of Nature-based Solutions in catalysing the well-being of oceans and coastal ecosystems
By Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, Director General, Emirates Nature-WWF
Healthy oceans are critical to the global economy and integral in regulating global climate systems. As climate change continues to race ahead at record-breaking speed, it is imperative that we ramp up action to safeguard, revive and responsibly oversee the management of our oceans and coastal ecosystems.
Oceans matter, more than ever before
The UAE has deep cultural and economic ties to the marine environment. The coastal nation has historically been connected to important global trade routes through the sea. Generations of fishing families have benefited from coastal biodiversity over the decades, and we are now experiencing the growth of the eco-tourism sector which relies heavily on nature.
At the same time, coastal and marine ecosystems are quite vulnerable under pressure from numerous human activities that are compounded with extreme climate conditions.
Businesses and organizations in the UAE are well-aware of their dependence on the quality and functioning of the marine environment in the Arabian Gulf. In a recent study Emirates Nature-WWF conducted around the UAE’s blue economy, 66% of corporates interviewed recognized their dependency on the oceans in one way or another. Many have already begun to consider climate change adaptation measures and are realizing the urgent need to scale up investments in this area.
At Emirates Nature-WWF, we are actively building awareness and capacity to prioritize nature-based adaptation measures and unlock their powerful benefits for climate, biodiversity, people and the economy.
Increased momentum as we approach COP28
2023 is proving to be a critical year in this critical decade of action. There is a groundswell of interest and climate ambition in the UAE as the COP28 climate change conference gets closer.
In the past weeks alone, we have had the opportunity to collaborate closely with global and local experts during notable events like the Road to COP28 and Ocean & Coastal Zones Strategic Retreat with the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, as well as the MENA Oceans Summit 2023 to revitalize strategies to expand marine protected areas, preserve important coastal lagoons in the UAE and close the blue finance gap.
With the potential to provide a third of global climate mitigation required between now and 2030 to deliver on the Paris Agreement, Nature-based Solutions have been recognized by multiple conventions as a key strategy to help us on climate mitigation and adaptation.
Nature-based Solutions in the UAE
Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are well-aligned to the UAE COP28 strategy which focusses on addressing the twin nexus of climate and nature.
Our work in this area builds on this priority focus for the UAE. With a science-based holistic approach, we are currently running two NbS projects in collaboration with the private sector, government entities and various organizations.
Our Nature-based Solutions project focuses on the protection, restoration, and management of priority coastal ecosystems. Instead of looking at one specific ecosystem, the project adopts what we call a “Seascape approach” which recognizes that the value and provisioning of ecosystem services is influenced by connectivity across multiple habitat types. It is particularly relevant for the UAE where mangroves, seagrass, saltmarshes and coral communities co-occur in coastal lagoons.
With funding from HSBC, the project is implemented by Emirates Nature-WWF in partnership between the Minister of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), the Minister of Economy (MoEc), the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), the Government of Umm Al Quwain, Emirates Nature-WWF and the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA).The project aims to bring measurable outcomes, serving to strengthen climate change mitigation, enhance biodiversity, and open up benefits for people and the economy alike through sustainable blue economy business opportunities. In particular, we aim to create a pipeline of opportunities that unlock blended finance towards include ecosystem protection, expansion of blue carbon sinks, ecotourism and food security – areas of key national interest and importance.
We are also part of the global Priceless Planet Coalition by Mastercard, which aims to restore 100 million trees around the world. The project’s primary focus in the UAE will be to regenerate mangrove ecosystems in the Northern Emirates, with a goal of restoring 50,000 mangrove trees and associated coastal ecosystems while also creating a platform for stakeholder and community engagement, expert collaboration, and civil society participation.
Unlocking exponential growth opportunities
The single biggest barrier in deploying NbS at scale is the lack of proper and quantifiable integration of nature within economic decision-making. The fact that decision making usually has very short cycles and doesn’t always consider longer term economic returns is a huge challenge.
We are currently working on marrying the two worlds and attracting financial flows to support conservation and NbS, while also building the technical capacity to create a pipeline of commercially viable projects.
As the world is gearing up towards low carbon, climate smart economic diversification, we look forward to working together with stakeholders to advance solutions, increase capital and usher NbS into the mainstream, so that we can accelerate positive impact for climate, nature and people in the year of COP28 and beyond.