Voicing the key role of MPA managers’ networks for healthy marine ecosystems, resilience and food security

In November 2022 (6-18), Egypt hosted the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, with a view to building on previous successes and paving the way for future ambition. Hosted by a Mediterranean country, the CoP27 was timelier than ever in building an important regional momentum in the fight against climate change. For the first time in UNFCCC COP’s history, the 27th edition hosted a Mediterranean Pavilion. The initiative was led by the UfM, together with United Nations Environment Programme – Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP-MAP) and the PRIMA Foundation.  

Acknowledging the Mediterranean region as a cradle of biodiversity but also a hotspot bearing the brunt of the climate change impacts, and realising the urgency to act, MedPAN took part in COP 27 to voice and showcase the strategic role of MPA managers’ networks and the economic benefits of nature-based solutions (NbS) provided by MPAs and their networks. Several institutions have made NbS a priority, including PRIMA, UfM, FAO, Interreg NEXT MED, EFI, MEDWET and many more but we still need to work at scale-up and catalyse all efforts as stressed by the results of the Interreg projects MPA NETWORKS and MPA Engage and the recommendations of the MedPAN policy paper

UNEP/MAP factsheet 

MedPAN participation highlights:

Represented by its president, Puricacio Canals, and its Policy manager, Carole Martinez, MedPAN participated in several events at the first-ever Mediterranean Pavilion to be organised at the COP. This initiative led by the Union for the Mediterranean delivered 70 events and brought together 10 ministers and heads of State as well as over 700 experts. MedPAN promoted the Post 2020 MPA Roadmap and shared the recommendations of the MedPAN Policy paper for enabling marine resilience in the Mediterranean Sea.

Swimming the talk: Scaling-up action to tackle climate change in the Mediterranean region – Monaco’s engagement

The event focused on accelerating the implementation of ocean and coastal-based mitigation and adaptation solutions and enhancing the resilience of ecosystems while improving scientific knowledge. The solid partnership around the engagement of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Monaco institutions and its partners will be emphasised.

Building on the statement of HSH Prince Albert II that “the Mediterranean is where most of the challenges of the century are concentrated and that it should also be the birthplace of new and effective solutions”, MedPAN President, Purificacio Canals, underlined the importance of effectively managed MPAs to support marine ecosystems’ resilience in the region. She stated that “All threats to marine ecosystems have to be reduced and mitigated and that cooperation among regional seas must be scaled-up!” Addressing a question on the obvious unbalance between civil society and governments’ efforts on the topic, she underlined the importance of cooperation between stakeholders and countries!

Nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation

The eventwas organised by the PRIMA Foundation. The focus was three urgent and essential Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to the Mediterranean region’s most pressing challenges – wetlands; agroecology; marine and coastal protected areas – based on solid experience and cooperation. 

Recalling the importance of MPAs as key tools of NbS, Carole Martinez, focused on the regional MPA network, its status, and its critical role in supporting NbS and building resilient marine ecosystems in the region. She explained that vulnerability assessment and adaptation plans at the MPA level remain needed in addition to several other important actions to be taken at the network level to turn MPA networks into climate-smart networks capable of considering and better reflecting the connectivity between ecosystems.

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Conservation of Mediterranean Sea ecosystems under the climate crisis: challenges and adaptive solutions in a sea facing fast tropicalization

The event organised by the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research (IOLR) discussed possible needed adaptive approaches and introduced the EU HORIZON-2020 project and FutureMARES which investigate the impacts of climate change on marine biodiversity and ecosystem services and examine relevant Nature-based Solutions (NbS).

Carole Martinez, MedPAN Policy manager, reiterated the importance of working at the MPA network level to support the resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems through well-connected MPA networks. Ecological connectivity is a key factor that requires more understanding and could be replicated to support the local, national and regional efforts of marine conservation. The question of connectivity showcases the scale of the problem and offers ways to improve existing efforts to further inform the implementation of NbS and the development of MPAs and their network

COP 27 outcomes

Egypt’s COP27 presidency vision was to move from negotiations and planning to implementation and to make this COP a turning point demonstrating the political requisite will take on the climate challenge through concerted, collaborative, and impactful action. COP27 was concluded with the “Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan“. 

If the ocean and the climate-biodiversity nexus have been increasingly acknowledged and integrated throughout the negotiations, a lot remains to be done to reach an awaited transformational change.

The 1.5°C target was maintained and a stronger position on fossil fuel was taken

The final declaration recalled the urgency of keeping the 1.5°C target within reach through “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global GHG emissions of 43% by 2030 relative to the 2019 level” and calls for the phase down of “unabated coal power” and the phase-out of “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies […] in line with national circumstances”.  

A Loss and Damage Fund was finally created

“A small victory for humankind” according to Avinash Persaud, Special Climate Envoy to Barbados’ Prime Minister, a dedicated Loss And Damage Fund to support communities most affected by climate change was finally created but it is a separate element within the New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance. No decisions on the scale, scope, quality and access to finance were made at COP27: this will need to be addressed at COP28 to be operationalized.

What about the Ocean?

At the last UNFCCC COP 26 (2021), Governments recognised the need for cross-cutting incorporation of the ocean under the work of all relevant constituted bodies and workstreams. The Global Goal of Adaptation was one of the significant outcomes of COP26. COP27 witnessed signs of progress. 

The integrity of all ecosystems

The final decision notes the “importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including in forests, the ocean and the cryosphere, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth and also noting the importance of ‘climate justice’ when taking action to address climate change.” It recognizes “the critical role of protecting, conserving and restoring water systems and water-related ecosystems in delivering climate adaptation benefits and co-benefits while ensuring social and environmental safeguards.”

Ocean Climate Dialogue

The importance and relevance of the Ocean and climate dialogue have been acknowledged. It was decided that “future dialogues will, from 2023, be facilitated by two co-facilitators, selected by Parties biennially, who will be responsible for deciding the topics for and conducting the dialogue, in consultation with Parties and observers, and preparing an informal summary report to be presented in conjunction with the subsequent session of the Conference of the Parties”. 

Nature-based solutions and Ocean-based actions

A new ENACT Initiative (Enhancing Nature-based Solutions for an Accelerated Climate Transformation) has been launched to coordinate global efforts to address climate change, land and ecosystem degradation, and biodiversity loss through Nature-based Solutions (NbS).

The final decision “encourages Parties to consider, as appropriate, ocean-based action in their national climate goals and in the implementation of these goals, including but not limited to nationally determined contributions, long-term strategies and adaptation communications”.

Blue carbon

The final decision emphasizes “the importance of protecting, conserving and restoring nature and ecosystems to achieve the Paris Agreement temperature goal, including through forests and other terrestrial and marine ecosystems acting as sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases and by protecting biodiversity, while ensuring social and environmental safeguards.”

Mangroves have been the object of financial commitments, with the launch of the Mangrove Breakthrough: an investment target of USD 4 billion to secure the future of 15 million hectares of mangroves globally by 2030. This breakthrough will build on collective action to halt mangrove loss, restore half of the recent losses, double the protection of mangroves globally, and ensure sustainable long-term finance for all existing mangroves.

Acknowledgement of non-Party stakeholders

The final decision acknowledges “the engagement of non-Party stakeholders in climate action, which complements and broadens it while recognizing the pivotal role of governments in action on climate change”. It recognizes “the important role of indigenous peoples, local communities, cities and civil society, including youth and children, in addressing and responding to climate change and highlights the urgent need for multilevel and cooperative action in this regard”. It welcomes the collaboration between Parties and non-Party stakeholders, and emphasizes the need for continued acceleration and collaboration”.

Gender approach

The final decision encourages Parties “to increase the full, meaningful and equal participation of women in climate action and to ensure gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation, including by fully implementing the Lima work programme on gender and its gender action plan, to raise climate ambition and achieve climate goals”. It recognizes “the role of children and youth as agents of change in addressing and responding to climate change and encourages Parties to include children and youth in their processes for designing and implementing climate policy and action, and, as appropriate, to consider including young representatives and negotiators into their national delegations, recognizing the importance of intergenerational equity and maintaining the stability of the climate system for future generations”.

The COP 27 hosted the first children and youth pavilion and appointed the first youth envoy of a Presidency of the Conference of the Parties. 

Conclusion

The spotlights and hopes are now on the CBD COP15. There will be no Paris without Montreal!