Top of the COP: Public empowerment, ocean and water resilience

Research shows that halving emissions within the 2020s is possible, while youth and parents step up calls for countries to protect and better manage the ocean and water  and end fossil fuels finance.  By Climate Champions | November 5, 2021

Taking stock: 

  • Taking stock, halfway through COP26: a headline event this afternoon – Destination 2030 – looks at what has been achieved so far and what’s necessary, possible and already underway to limit warming to 1.5°C. Speakers include COP26 President Alok Sharma, former US Vice President Al Gore, UN High-Level Climate Champions Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz, Force for Nature Founder, Clover Hogan and WRI’s Regional Director for Africa, Wanjira Mathai.
  • The investment case for high-emitting infrastructure is rapidly collapsing, with all major sectors on the verge of rolling out cheaper or cost-competitive green and resilient solutions, according to Systemiq’s Paris Effect – COP26 edition report released today. The report tracks developments across sectors covering 90% of global emissions in 2015-2021.

Public empowerment: 

  • Over 2,500 young people are today calling for the protection of water and wetlands through two campaigns led by the World Youth Parliament for Water and the Young Wetland Ambassadors.
  • Youth meet COP26 President Sharma, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, UN High Level Climate Champion Nigel Topping and others this morning to discuss the Global Youth Statement signed by 40,000, urging politicians to set policy frameworks across 15 areas of climate action, resilience and adaptation. The event takes place from 10-11:15am in Climate Action Room 1.
  • Representing the biggest parent mobilization in history, a delegation of mothers handed a letter to COP26 President Sharma today on behalf of parents groups around the world urging heads of state to end financing for all new fossil fuels to protect their childrens’ health.

Ocean & Water Resilience:

  • Three separate declarations from across society call for greater support and protection for the ocean. In the first, youth voices advocate for a Global Blue New Deal, recognizing the role the ocean plays in regulating the climate; providing food, oxygen and ecosystem services; and supporting over 250 million livelihoods.
  • In the second – the Ocean for Climate Declaration – more than 100 local and international public and private sector actors calling on governments and businesses to scale up ocean-based climate solutions and action. They include local communities, UN organisations, NGOs, businesses and scientific institutions.
  • In the third, 16 countries have signed the Because the Ocean declaration since it launched on Monday, pledging to tackle shipping emissions, develop clean ocean renewable energy and advocate for stronger public and private support for ocean.
  • A fresh US$145 million is going to the Global Funds for Coral Reefs, including $125 million from the UN’s Green Climate Fund. This will help small island states protect and restore coral reefs, build coastal resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
  • Public and private financial institutions today commit nearly $13 million of new investment in the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance, which pioneers finance and insurance products that incentivize investment into nature-based solutions in coastal and marine areas.
  • The Great Blue Wall initiative, launching next week, will champion an Africa-led 2030 roadmap to conserve and restore marine and coastal biodiversity, while building the resilience of coastal communities and unlocking the development of a regenerative blue economy that benefits at least 70 million people.
  • The International Water Association, Aguas Andinas and CDP come together today to launch a new water sector initiative – 50 to 1 billion – in which the 50 largest water utilities will accelerate work to build resilient water supplies and wastewater services for more than 1.2 billion people by 2030. 
  • A series of new water programmes announced today will bring water, climate, economic development, human health, ecosystem restoration and poverty reduction under the same roof. Among them, the Resilient Water Accelerator aims to boost water security for 30 climate hotspots by 2030 and the Urban Water Resilience Initiative aims to develop water action plans in 25 African cities.
  • The Network for Greening the Financial System and CDP come together today to explore how transparency can shift the global financial system towards a water secure, resilient world and announce the first disclosure mechanism to catalyze this shift.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean will receive their first blue bond – with IDB Invest issuing an A$50 million, 10-year fixed rate bond, announced today. The proceeds will support projects that expand clean water and sanitation for people in the region.
  • The water sector has hit a breakthrough in ambition towards halving emissions by 2030, with major companies responsible for 20% of global water supply now part of the Race to Zero campaign.

In depth: 

How to Get to Net-Zero By 2050

The Paris Effect 2.0: To build a prosperous, net zero economy, we need to accelerate low-carbon investment and progress in energy, nature, finance, methane and carbon dioxide removal. The good news is that we know how to do this, Systemiq finds in the report released today. ​​Low-carbon solutions are competitive across much of the electricity sector, and within the next decade we can expect to see disruptive trends in multiple sectors including trucking, food and agriculture, aviation, shipping and others – supported by the Glasgow Breakthrough package launched by the UK COP26 presidency this week.

The State of Climate Action: Despite notable progress in some key sectors, none of the 40 indicators in the World Resources Institute’s State of Climate Action research are moving at the pace needed to halve emissions by 2030 and fully decarbonize by 2050. Seventeen indicators are “well off track” and eight are “off track”. For three indicators – including the use of private cars and deforestation – the situation is worsening.

Why it matters: These reports show that halving global emissions between 2020 and 2030 and creating a zero-carbon, resilient economy is possible and beneficial, but needs to accelerate immediately – especially across the biggest and hardest to abate sectors. These reports help to firm up the roadmap for this speedy transformation in a way that leaves no sector or community behind.

Youth and parents demand action

Thirsty for Change and Young Wetland Ambassadors: Over 2,500 young people are today calling for the protection of water and wetlands. That includes a letter released by the World Youth Parliament for Water, a network for over 1,500 young people, calling for legislation that purposefully includes young people, especially from vulnerable and marginalized communities, to take part in decision-making on climate and water; and for bold policies recommended by climate experts to address global warming and water-related disasters. Separately, 1,000 Young Wetland Ambassadors call for the protection of wetlands to be included in Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement.

Parents want an end to new fossil fuels: A delegation of mothers from around the world today presented a letter to heads of state on behalf of almost 500 parents’ groups from 44 countries calling on leaders to end new fossil fuels financing to protect their children’s health. This is the biggest parents’ mobilization on any issue and makes clear the inextricable link between greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and health.

→Why it matters: 93% of children worldwide are breathing air that’s dirtier than the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines for human health. Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution because their lungs are developing, they spend more time outside and are more active than adults. Overall, air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is linked to 8.7 million – or one in five – premature deaths per year worldwide.

Youth meet leaders: YOUNGO, the UN’s official youth constituency, takes part in an event this morning about the Global Youth Statement it handed to COP26 President Sharma last week. The letter, signed by 40,000 youth, calls on political leaders to set the necessary policy frameworks across 15 areas – including underrepresented groups, finance and markets, loss and damage, food and agriculture, mobility and transport, climate justice and human rights, health and water, sanitation and oceans.

→Why it matters: Public support for governments to take action on climate change is growing around the world, with 56% saying they want their countries to take a leadership role at COP26, according to a Globe Scan poll or 31 countries ahead of the summit. Another 36% of the public wanted a more moderate approach to climate action.

Accelerating ocean-based climate solutions

Global Blue New Deal: The Sustainable Ocean Alliance’s Youth Policy Advisory Council has set out a youth-led, crowdsourced Global Blue New Deal based on four priority pillars: addressing the climate emergency, using nature-based solutions to promote healthy ecosystems and climate resilience, strengthening sustainable seafood to match increasing demand, and including youth and local communities in natural ocean resource management.

Ocean for Climate Declaration: The Ocean for Climate Declaration has rallied more than 100 signatories calling for governments and businesses to scale up ocean-based climate solutions and action. This is the first time global and local actors, including NGOs, businesses, scientific institutions, voluntary initiatives, local communities, cities and regions, have joined forces ahead of COP with a set of shared priorities for a healthy and productive ocean to deliver a resilient, nature-positive and zero-emissions world.

Because the Ocean Declaration: The 16 countries that have signed on say they will 1) accelerate the reduction of international shipping emissions; 2) further the development of clean offshore renewable energy while taking into account effects on marine and coastal ecosystems; 3) advocate for strengthening public and private sources of support for climate adaptation and mitigation in the ocean; 4) work with the IPCC to meet these goals and foster the exchange of knowledge and good practices. Signatories include Chile, the Pacific Islands Forum, Belgium, Colombia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, the Seychelles and the UK.

→ Why it matters: Oceans absorb more than a quarter of CO2 emissions. To ensure they still do by 2050, COP26 needs to mark a turning point that recognizes the need to make ocean renewable energy a major source of clean energy and to adopt climate-smart practices in the aquatic food industry, according to the Marrakech Partnership’s Climate Action Pathways report for oceans and coastal zones.

Global Funds for Coral Reefs: The $145 million of extra funding is made up of $125 million from the Green Climate Fund and $20 million in grants from philanthropies and member countries. This will help supply some of the $12 billion per year needed to help small island states adapt to the impacts of climate change, of which 80% is for coastal defence. Fiji, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, The Bahamas, Belize and the Solomon Islands will be announced as priority countries for GFCR.

→ Why it matters: Up to half of coral reefs have already been lost, and 90% will be if warming is limited to 1.5°C. This jeopardizes a source of biodiversity and livelihoods for around a billion people, according to the Global Funds for Coral Reefs. Coastal ecosystems typically sequester carbon dioxide from the air at a rate of between 12.5 and 8 tonnes per hectare each year – several times faster than the net rate by mature tropical forests.

Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance: The initiative helps to grow the project pipeline for investment in blue resilience and provide a forum for those who want to invest in verified marine and coastal natural capital find investment opportunities. The $13 million of funding announced today will, for example, help to develop an innovative risk assessment tool to help insurers combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and find new locally-led finance products that can be scaled to benefit coastal communities. The new funding comes from Canada, Google on behalf of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the UK and Swiss Re Foundation, AXA and Deutsche Bank.

Big boost for water resilience

Climate, water, health and resilience: A new generation of water programmes will bring water, climate, economic development, human health, ecosystem restoration and poverty reduction challenges under the same roof to support resilient development. Among them, the Resilient Water Accelerator aims to boost water security for 30 climate hotspots by the end of the decade, and the Africa Urban Water Resilience Initiative aims to develop strategic water actions plans in 25 African cities. They will both deliver water resilient infrastructure and support data, expertise, planning and organization for resilient infrastructure.

Network for Greening the Financial System & CDP: Following the NGFS’ warning that climate change and water security pose a financial stability threat, the two will talk at an event today about the role of transparency in managing the threat. CDP will also announce the development of the first water reporting framework for financial institutions, which will be issued to 700 of the world’s largest publicly listed firms next April.

Why it matters: Central banks are waking up to the importance of securing the supply of good quality freshwater. In 2020, 66 central banks, including the NGFS, recognized the various types of water risks and their interlinked nature. Companies across the food, beverage, chemicals, fashion, mining, energy and oil and gas sectors are responsible for, or have influence over, 70% of the world’s water use.

The water sector breaks through

Water sector breakthrough in ambition: The water sector reached a tipping point on the way to halving emissions by 2030, with over 20% of major companies by revenue joining the Race to Zero campaign for net-zero emissions before 2050. The 50 largest water utilities are also driving the 50 to 1 billion campaign, accelerating their work to build resilient water supplies and wastewater services for more than 1.2 billion.

→Why it matters: The global water sector uses nearly as much energy as Australia. In 2014, about 4% of global power consumption was used to extract, distribute and treat water and wastewater. As the world’s finite supply of freshwater dwindles, the sector’s energy use is projected to more than double through 2040. But there is significant potential for energy savings in the sector, if energy efficiency and energy recovery potentials are used in full. By 2050, water and sanitation services could become affordable and available to all, even in areas experiencing water stress, according to the Marrakech Partnership’s Climate Action Pathway for water.


Gonzalo Muñoz and Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Champions: “The Race To Zero campaign has resulted in hundreds of companies globally committing to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the very latest. These companies find themselves in the vanguard of climate leadership and it is encouraging to see the growing number of water utilities amongst them. Such a critical mass of commitments will send a resounding ambition signal to policymakers that the water utility sector is taking meaningful action on climate change.”

International Environment Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith: “The ocean plays a unique role in regulating our climate. There is no pathway to net zero that does not involve protecting and restoring nature, including the ocean, on an unprecedented scale. That’s why we are marking Ocean Action Day as part of COP26.

“We’re delighted to be working with the High Level Climate Champions to secure renewed support for the pledge to protect 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030. This will help to make our ocean healthier, more resilient and enhance its biodiversity for future generations.”





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