The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) today kickstarted its COP 27 activities with a gathering of global leaders who expressed enthusiasm and pledged commitment to accelerating action on the Great Blue Wall Initiative (GBW).
“All of us here are advocates, promoters, and leaders in the blue space. We have to take on this challenge, and we cannot do it alone; it has got to be a collective effort,” said President Wavel Ramkalawan of the Republic of Seychelles who also underscored the need for all to “stop talking about the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean,” and instead “talk about the one ocean we must protect.”
The “Great Blue Wall” (GBW) initiative is a critical Africa-led effort toward a nature-positive world that enhances the planet’s and societies’ resilience to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030. It aims to create interconnected, protected, and conserved marine areas to counteract the effects of climate change and global warming in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. At the same time, unlocking the blue economy’s potential to become a driver of nature conservation and sustainable development outcomes.
In her opening remarks, IUCN President, Razan al Mubarak, said the Great Blue Wall initiative has “garnered support from both inside and outside of Africa, raised the profile of the plight of our oceans and returned energy and faith in international collaboration and cooperation.”
Mahmoud Mohieldin, UNFCCC High-Level Climate Champion, emphasized the importance of ocean conservation, noting, “oceans are our biggest ally in the fight of climate action, but, unfortunately, we are compromising this solution by not protecting it.” Mr Mohieldin said “Oceans are the world’s largest heat sink; they absorb around 90% of the excess heat caused by climate change; and they are also very efficient carbon sinks, absorbing 23% of human-caused carbon emissions.”
The event, which focused on the nexus of climate change, nature conservation, and the blue economy, showcased the first-of-its-kind impact-driven regional initiative – the GBW – to scale up and accelerate ocean-climate action in Africa. It also showed how critical international events can be steppingstones towards achieving the GBW objectives; and called on parties and partners for support and partnership.
African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment, Josefa Sacko, underscored the importance of collaboration and African-led solutions to African problems: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together – we have to work hand-in-hand. The Great Blue Wall is an African-led initiative which speaks to the African Union ethos of African solutions to African problems.”
On way forward for the GBW initiative, Nigel Topping, UNFCCC High-Level Climate Champion, highlighted the need to focus on mobilizing financing for climate projects, regionalizing work, and centring science and rigour to attract investors.
In closing the session, Acting Executive Secretary of the ECA, Antonio Pedro, emphasized the importance of implementation. “It’s about moving from demonstrating what is possible to rising to another level of scale and ambition so that we have a combination of nature conservation and the empowerment of local communities to have sustainable livelihoods.”
The event was co-hosted by the ECA, the Republic of Seychelles, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN High-Level Climate Champions. Other high-level speakers included Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Oceans; Nigel Topping; UNFCCC High-Level Climate Champion, Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum and representatives from the United Nations General Assembly, the Republic of Kenya and Mozambique.
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