The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
The beauty of oceans is only surpassed by their importance; they are, quite simply, the lifeblood of the planet. Subtly regulating our climate system, they absorb massive quantities of carbon dioxide and excess heat from the atmosphere. They generate every second breath we take, create jobs and provide food. They offer not only a sanctuary for diverse marine life, but also form the foundation for sustainable community development.Werner Myburgh, CEO, Peace Parks Foundation
On World Oceans Day, we celebrate all things embodied and enabled by oceans: the complex systems, connections, cause-and-effect cascades… and our place in the orderly chaos of it all.
Thanks to Peace Parks’ Blue Action Fund programme, a stunning stretch of coastline in southern Mozambique, renowned for its unique mosaic of coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and sweeping dunes, is making waves in conservation. The target region, part of Africa’s first marine transfrontier area, is not only a brimming biodiversity bank but also a carbon storage powerhouse. This sensitive biome is under threat of climate change, leading to worrying shifts in the ocean. This flux poses significant challenges for local communities who rely so deeply on their natural surroundings. But now the world’s largest climate fund is stepping in, bolstering the very strategies discussed in global oceans and climate negotiations.
With the Blue Action Fund’s ground-breaking grant, funded by the Green Climate Fund, Peace Parks is pioneering an ambitious programme to protect and rejuvenate these ecosystems. Working closely with expert partners, Peace Parks places local communities at the core of its conservation approach. The goal? To better equip these communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change and, further to that, thrive. They require the skills, infrastructure and knowledge to utilise natural resources responsibly, sustain their livelihoods, and become resilient in the face of climate change. From sustainable fishing and cooking practices to turtle monitoring and education, these community-led initiatives are creating a swell of positive change.
But why is this action important?
Oceans cover nearly three quarters of the surface of our planet, giving Earth its distinctive blue glow. They are integral to life on Earth; “No water, no life; no blue, no green,” Sylvia Earle once famously said. In fact, an estimated 3 billion people around the world depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, from fishing to tourism.
But ocean resilience is being tested. For too long, it has been challenged by the burden of human-driven climate change, which is forcing drastic alterations to both chemistry and dynamics. Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most authoritative body of climate scientists, underscore alarming trends: rising sea- temperatures and levels, acidification, and shifting circulation patterns. These changes disrupt the fine balance in ecosystems on which all life on earth depends. Coastal communities from Bangladesh to Belize are already grappling with the dire implications of climate change, facing displacement, economic instability, the erosion of cultural heritage, extreme weather events and declining marine resources. We need to act, and everyone has a part to play.
Across the globe organisations and individuals are focusing on impact, driven by an urgent and united resolve to safeguard 30% of land and ocean by 2030. Their actions reflect a renewed commitment to the critical interplay between ocean health and climate stability. A robust ocean is not just an environmental necessity, but an ally in our global fight against climate change.
As we race against time in the climate emergency, government negotiators at UN climate talks this year need to agree on several key issues to ensure that we limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius and to avoid the harshest consequences of climate change. These include key decisions on mitigation – cutting emissions to address the root cause of global warming, whilst protecting communities against its impacts and building people’s resilience as they intensify. The latest reports from the IPCC and World Meteorological Organisation lay out in detail the current state of the planet’s climate, issuing the stark warning that the window of opportunity is closing fast; estimates suggest that the next 5 years will be the hottest on record due to climate change. Hot on the heels of this analysis, governments will in 2023 also finalise the Global Stocktake.
For many people around the world, limiting warming of our planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius is a matter of survival. The Global Stocktake is the opportunity of a generation to correct the course we are on, to design a way forward to tackle climate change with fresh vigour and perspective.Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary
The Global Stocktake, a process happening every 5 years, is a massive planetary inventory directed by the Paris Agreement. It serves to chart a better course forward to accelerate climate action by assessing achievements so far, relative to the goals of mitigating climate change, adapting to its effects and mobilising essential financing. The significance of the ocean in this inventory has been analysed by multiple conservation organisations. The conclusion? That the ocean, as a central part in the Earth’s climate system, must logically be a key focus in successfully driving climate change action.
This includes ‘adaptation goals’ to enhance how ecosystems and communities can best respond to the major climate, and ocean, shifts; how adjusting our behaviour and adapting our infrastructure can help to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability.
Together, we stand at a pivotal point in history for our global ocean and climate, and Peace Parks can play a transformative role in protecting, restoring and sustaining healthy coastal ecosystems for people and planet. The opportunities unlocked by the Blue Action Fund, crucially for local people, come at a vital time given the challenges facing this remarkable, vulnerable region, and pave a 5-year path to increased resilience, adaptability and consciousness about the environment. Beyond this time, communities will then to be able to maintain the focus and momentum of benefits – to create their own impact, on a growing scale. The programme firmly anchors Peace Parks’ commitment to pursuing global goals and climate action, delivering a hopeful future brimming with life-changing revival.
We are at a unique stage in our history. Never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and never before have we had the power to do something about that. Surely we all have a responsibility to care for our Blue Planet. The future of humanity, and indeed all life on earth, now depends on us.Sir David Attenborough