At the 27th Session of Conference of Parties (COP27), this year’s UN climate summit, the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) was launched with India as a partner on Tuesday (November 8). The move, in line with India’s goal to increase its carbon sink, will see New Delhi collaborating with Sri Lanka, Indonesia and other countries to preserve and restore the mangrove forests in the region.
Attending the event in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt on Tuesday, Union Minister for Environment Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav said that India is home to one of the largest remaining areas of mangroves in the world — the Sundarbans — and has years of expertise in restoration of mangrove cover that can be used to aid global measures in this direction.
Addressed the Mangrove Alliance for Climate Launch on the sidelines of COP27.
Stated that to sustain the blue economy, it is imperative to ensure sustainability of coastal habitats, particularly mangroves for tropical nations, at the local, regional, and international levels. pic.twitter.com/oF4aU7dsPZ
— Bhupender Yadav (@byadavbjp) November 8, 2022
An initiative led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Indonesia, the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) includes India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Japan, and Spain. It seeks to educate and spread awareness worldwide on the role of mangroves in curbing global warming and its potential as a solution for climate change.
Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, while launching the alliance, said that her country intends to plant 3 million mangroves in the next two months, in keeping with UAE’s COP26 pledge of planting 100 million mangroves by 2030.
“Increasing reliance on nature-based solutions is an integral element of the UAE’s climate action on the domestic as well as international level, therefore, we seek to expand our mangrove cover,” she said, as per a report in Dubai-based news channel Al Arabiya. “We are pleased to launch MAC jointly with Indonesia, and believe it will go a long way in driving collective climate action and rehabilitating blue carbon ecosystems,” she added.
At #COP27, we announced the launch of the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) in partnership with Indonesia 🇮🇩. MAC seeks to scale up and accelerate the conservation and restoration of #mangrove ecosystems for the benefit of communities worldwide 🌳. pic.twitter.com/NWlDTU8TuU
— Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri (@mariammalmheiri) November 9, 2022
However, the intergovernmental alliance works on a voluntary basis which means that there are no real checks and balances to hold members accountable. Instead, the parties will decide their own commitments and deadlines regarding planting and restoring mangroves. The members will also share expertise and support each other in researching, managing and protecting coastal areas.
The significance of mangroves
Mangroves have been the focus of conservationists for years and it is difficult to overstate their importance in the global climate context. Mangrove forests — consisting of trees and shrub that
live in intertidal water in coastal areas — host diverse marine life. They also support a rich food web, with molluscs and algae-filled substrate acting as a breeding ground for small fish, mud crabs and shrimps, thus providing a livelihood to local artisanal fishers.
Equally importantly, they act as effective carbon stores, holding up to four times the amount of carbon as other forested ecosystems. Mangrove forests capture vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and their preservation can both aid in removal of carbon from the atmosphere and prevent the release of the same upon their destruction.
The current state of the mangroves
South Asia houses some of the most extensive areas of mangroves globally, while Indonesia hosts one-fifth of the overall amount.
India holds around 3 percent of South Asia’s mangrove population. Besides the Sundarbans in West Bengal, the Andamans region, the Kachchh and Jamnagar areas in Gujarat too have substantial mangrove cover.
However, infrastructure projects — industrial expansion and building of roads and railways, and natural processes — shifting coastlines, coastal erosion and storms, have resulted in a significant decrease in mangrove habitats.
Between 2010 and 2020, around 600 sq km of mangroves were lost of which more than 62% was due to direct human impacts, the Global Mangrove Alliance said in its 2022 report.
India at COP
Unlike other world leaders — US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak — Prime Minister Narendra Modi has skipped this edition of the conference, with Union Minister Bhupender Yadav representing India instead.
Yadav has said that India’s focus currently is on concessional and climate-specific grants to drive climate finance, and has teamed up with Brazil, South Africa and China (the BASIC bloc) to negotiate agreements.
Demands by various negotiating blocs
As seen in the previous sessions of the climate conference, building consensus among the 190+ countries who are members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a tough task. China, for instance, has ramped up the use of coal amidst energy security risks and rising tensions with Taiwan. Its deteriorating relationship with the US, the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gas behind Beijing, has further complicated possibilities of negotiations.
The European Union, which negotiates as a single entity for its 27 members, is at the lower end of the spectrum of gas emitters, but is under pressure to ease its resistance to its staunch position
against the issue of ‘loss and damage’, which calls for rich and developed countries to compensate poorer, developing countries who are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change.
G77 and China is the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the UN. Pakistan, which currently chairs the group and faced devastating floods this year, will lead the group in its demand for a dedicated fund for compensation from wealthy countries, Reuters reported. The Climate Vulnerable Forum, which represents 58 countries that are disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change such as Bangladesh and Maldives, reportedly demands a dedicated fund in which rich polluting nations help bear the costs of “loss and damage”.