By Maria Damanaki, Global Managing Director for Oceans at The Nature Conservancy
As many people around the world know, the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) in Paris begins in just a few days. And as I wrote in this month’s Cornerstone Journal of Sustainable Finance and Banking, we are at a critical crossroads in both our fight against climate change and our mission to ensure the global health and sustainability of our oceans.
Our climate and our ocean are intrinsically linked. What happens in the ocean affects our climate, and vice versa. And while the global challenge of mitigating climate change impacts and protecting the future health of the oceans is daunting, I am hopeful about the enormous opportunity before us to create positive change for oceans and people.
We have the opportunity today, like never before, to transform humanity’s relationship with nature.
In addition to all that the ocean already gives us—food, transportation, leisure—if we take a strategic approach, we can also harness the power of nature to help combat climate change and its impacts.
For example, we can use our natural ocean systems like oyster and coral reefs and mangrove forests to protect coastal communities from stronger storms and rising sea levels.
And we can protect and restore our coastal wetlands, our seagrass meadows, saltmarshes and mangroves to capture and store large amounts of “blue carbon” to further reduce the world’s carbon pollution. Collectively, we know that nature can mitigate at least 20 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions.
The Nature Conservancy is also working with partners in the insurance industry, to explore and understand the full value of the ocean’s natural systems. Together, we are developing new ways to invest in the protective services our natural infrastructure to increase the climate and disaster resilience of vulnerable coastal communities around the world.
And we’re working with national governments and multi-lateral institutions to develop innovative financing mechanisms for climate adaptation and mitigation for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Earlier this year, we announced a first-of-it’s kind “debt for nature” swap with the Government of Seychelles and the Paris Club creditors that will allow Seychelles to redirect $30 million of its debt to invest in a comprehensive approach to ocean conservation and bolster its resilience to climate change.
This is the first conservation debt swap completed with the support of impact capital—serving as a new financing model with potential replicability for other nations that are on the front lines of climate change.
The solutions exist. In Paris, at COP21 and beyond, investing in – and harnessing – the powers and solutions that exist in nature and our oceans should be a key strategy for all nations. A healthy ocean should be a primary consideration in our global strategy to slow and reverse the impacts of climate change for our planet. Our blue planet.
You can follow Maria Damanki on Twitter @damanaki