UAE’s Nature-based Solution project fights climate change and boosts biodiversity

By Climate Champions | May 14, 2024

Ecosystems across the globe are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as are the communities that depend on them. Yet these same ecosystems possess the potential to protect people from the adverse effects of climate change. This understanding has spurred a growing emphasis on Nature-based Solutions (NbS) – actions that involve working with and enhancing natural ecosystems for societal good, for example through restoration, management and protection.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is experiencing the escalating effects of climate change and faces unique challenges due to its susceptibility to extreme climate events, including droughts and water scarcity.

As a result, there is an urgent need to accelerate the implementation of ecosystem-based NbS in the MENA region and fostering collaboration among a wide range of Non-State Actors (NSAs) is a key part of advancing a nature-positive future for the region.

Khor Faridah. ©-Daniel Mateos Molina — ENWWF.

Nature-based Solutions for Climate, Biodiversity & People in the UAE 

In June 2021, the Nature-based Solutions for Climate, Biodiversity & People in the UAE Project was launched, focusing on the management and restoration of key coastal ecosystems, including mangroves, seagrasses and saltmarshes.

The project, funded by HSBC as part of its Climate Solutions Partnership is a collaboration between the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), the Minister of Economy (MoEc), the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), the Government of Umm Al Quwain, Emirates Nature-WWF and the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA).

The project aims to:

  • Protect, restore and sustainably manage natural coastal ecosystems to act as carbon sinks
  • Achieve measurable greenhouse gas emissions reductions or avoidance
  • Enhance the climate-nature policy nexus
  • Create commercially viable opportunities around ecotourism and food innovation to provide socio-economic benefits to people
  • Unlock public/private finance for NbS

“Through a science-based approach, this multi-stakeholder partnership aims to identify ways to increase financial flows towards nature conservation and NbS. To this end, we have tested NbS on the ground with the goal to build the business case for the most vulnerable yet productive ecosystems of the UAE: coastal lagoons,” said Marina Antonopoulou, Senior Director, Emirates Nature WWF.

Financing nature-based solutions in the MENA Region

Global finance is pivotal in harnessing nature, one of the most formidable allies against climate change, and in recognizing natural capital as a crucial asset class.

Mangrove restoration in the UAE. ©-Mona-Moller-ENWWF.

While the project’s funding primarily stems from public and philanthropic sources. Private investors could close more than half the funding gap by profitably funding projects with a positive environmental and social impact. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that investment needs to surge to $384bn per year by 2025 and $484bn per year by 2030 from the current $154bn per year to achieve climate, biodiversity and land degradation targets.

Shifting financial flows towards climate-nature projects is therefore essential for our planet’s future. Financial institutions are uniquely positioned to propel NbS projects forward by providing capital, crafting innovative financial instruments and insurance products in addition to advising on risk management and performance structures.

Recently, there have been efforts to boost innovative private investment and the supporting nature-based enterprize growth. “This project aims to enhance the resilience of blue-carbon coastal ecosystems in the country. Through initial funding, the project seeks to demonstrate commercial viability, spark entrepreneurship, and preserve natural capital, thereby attracting further investment,” said David Ramos, Acting Head of Sustainability, HSBC Middle East.

Global target setting for mangroves 

At COP28, non-state actors pledged to conserve and restore 15 million hectares of mangroves by 2030 with a goal of reaching USD 4 billion of sustainable finance. As part of a formal partnership between the Mangrove Alliance for Climate and the Mangrove Breakthrough, 49 governments (representing around 60% of the world’s mangroves) as well as over 50 NSAs committed to support the targets.

The Mangrove Breakthrough collaborated last year with the Sustainable Markets Initiative Financial Services Taskforce (SMI FSTF) on the Mangrove Breakthrough Financial Roadmap. A sub-working group led by Barclays and HSBC worked alongside Pollination to develop the FSTF Financing Coastal Nature-based Solutions Practitioners Guide, in a collaborative effort with the Mangrove Breakthrough and Systemiq.

The document serves as a practical guide targeted towards financial institutions to build awareness and address key potential considerations for embedding coastal nature-based solutions into financial structuring. It complements the “Mangrove Breakthrough Financial Roadmap” released in November last year.

Main image: © Daniel Mateos Molina– ENWWF 13122021 Khor Faridah Edge of mangrove forest.

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