This week, the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 is taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom. This conference will bring together world leaders so they can address global climate policy and action, and assess the progress made to address climate change that was promised in previous years. The decisions made at this meeting could have lasting consequences for marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, that are particularly sensitive to climate change.
The primary goals of COP26 are to secure global net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century and to adapt policies to protect communities and natural habitats. Net-zero carbon emissions does not mean no carbon will be released, but that any carbon emitted will be offset by other actions taken to remove it from the atmosphere.
Certain coastal marine ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and salt marshes, are particularly good at sequestering carbon by pulling it out of the air and storing it underground. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems (as we do in our Mangrove Education & Restoration Program) can not only conserve the marine environment, it can also help combat climate change. These ecosystems can also help coastal communities naturally adapt to other impacts of climate change by protecting the coast from storms, reducing erosion, and helping the shoreline keep up with sea level rise.