UAE and Indonesia’s Mangrove Alliance: A Global Climate Change Solution

Mangroves dominate the entire Arabian Peninsula’s coastal vegetation. Once regarded as a swampy wasteland, mangroves are now the magic bullet for regions susceptible to the adverse impacts of climate change.

The swampy marshes’ unique ability to mitigate the damage caused by waves, severe storms, and soil erosion, acting as a cushion, protecting coastal communities from flooding and the effect of sea level rise – makes it an “ecosystem engineer”.

UAE mangrove conservation

A nature-based solution

Mangroves are integral part the coastal ecosystem. It hold the potential to act as a carbon sink, taking in the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it to blue carbon. Blue carbon is present and stored in abundance in the soil and underground, showcasing the transformative power of nature-based solutions in the face of global environmental challenges.

A study by the FAO stressed the environmental significance of mangrove trees in protecting coastal communities from natural hazards such as storms, soil erosion, and tsunamis. The importance of mangroves for the combat of climate change is becoming more evident with the growing intensity of extreme weather events and rising sea levels in coastal regions.

Mangrove forests only covers 0.1% of the planet’s surface but it holds the ability to store blue carbon up to 400% more than tropical forests.

It is estimated that 341 threatened species around the world depend on mangrove forest for nesting and feeding grounds. 80% of the marine organisms rely on healthy mangrove ecosystem to thrive and acts as a breeding ground. Mangroves is also vital to safeguard the marine ecosystem against the ever-changing climate.

UAE’s mangrove restoration

UAE is among one of the most vulnerable countries towards climate crisis. UAE is facing warmer weather, increased droughts, increased sea levels and more vicious storms. Climate change has also placed the local marine ecosystem at significant risk of extinction.

Mangroves are an iconic part of the UAE’s ecosystem and are viewed as crucial to the planet’s sustainability. Mangroves were championed by the UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. They are now part of the UAE’s extension of the Blue Carbon Project, focusing on the importance of the mangroves’ carbon sequestration properties.

The UAE is leading the global initiative to educate, collaborate and fund to protect the global mangrove habitats. This stems from the UAE’s commitment to addressing climate change and safeguarding vital coastal ecosystems worldwide.

The UAE aims to plants 100 million mangrove trees by 2030, accounting for 9,200 hectares, 70 million more than that was stated in the second national contributions report under the Paris Agreement.

The mangrove trees in the Abu Dhabi alone are expected to store carbon at a rate of 0.5 tonnes per hectare per year. Sequestering at least 8,800 tons of carbon emissions annually, equivalent to the energy consumption of over 900 homes. This is expected to contribute significantly to the UAE’s pursuit of climate neutrality by 2050.

UAE and Indonesia collaboration

The global mangrove area covers 147,359km², with Indonesia covering one-fifth of the worldwide mangrove areas. The global mangrove forests are shrinking significantly in recent decades, including in Indonesia, caused by deforestation, mangrove forest conversion, and climate change.

Hence, the UAE launched the global “Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC)” in partnership and leadership of Indonesia at COP27, to support, enhance, and expand mangrove forests globally as a nature-based solution against climate change.

In COP28 summit, Mariam Almheiri, UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, launched a mangrove research centre in Indonesia under MAC, for the advancement in research, innovation and in fostering knowledge exchange within the global scientific communities on mangroves and serve as part of its global mission to restore and protect 15 million hectares of mangroves by 2030.

MAC follows a voluntary approach, with the members determining their own commitments towards planting and restoring mangrove forests, promoting multilateral cooperation, and sharing knowledge.


Global Fight Against Climate Change

The establishment of MAC and its research center in Indonesia paved the way for global unified approach towards mangrove conservation at COP28. COP28, which was held in Dubai stressed and encouraged the global community to come together for the restoration of mangroves.

The Mangrove Breakthrough, which was launched at COP27, by the UN High-Level Climate Champions and Global Mangrove Alliance, is made up of over 60  Environment Non-Governmental Organizations an Knowledge Institutions. Whereas the Mangrove Alliance for Climate, convenes government partners for capacity-building and best-practice-sharing, complementing the Mangrove Breakthrough.

The global mangrove protection and restoration of 15 million hectares by 2030 secured significant support from over 40 new governments and other stakeholders, with a goal of reaching USD 4 billion of sustainable finance via the Mangrove Breakthrough at the COP28.

COP28 saw a formal partnership announced between the Mangrove Alliance for Climate and the Mangrove Breakthrough, where 49 governments which covers 60% of the world’s mangroves as well as over 50 non-state actors supporting the Mangrove Breakthrough targets to halt mangrove destruction by 2030. It made made significant progress towards securing the Mangrove Breakthrough’s goal of 15 million hectares of mangroves underpinned by USD 4 billion of new investments by 2030.

The Mangrove Breakthrough has come a long way since COP27. We are honoured to be part of shepherding it to what it is today: a robust, scientifically and financially achievable pathway to scaled-up mangrove protection and restoration, now with the gravity of nations and the private sector behind it. COP28 has created momentum for these powerhouse ecosystems, and with that, increased coastal protection and sustainable livelihoods for millions of people while creating the conditions to grow the most effective carbon sinks we have. We look forward to more endorsements, because now more than ever, we need to keep the momentum going.” Said Han de Groot, CEO, Wetlands International.

MAC has signed 39 countries, with 50 non-state actors who met at COP28 affirmed their support for Mangrove Breakthrough. Political momentum has been created to realize mangroves’ massive potential as a carbon sink, and as weapon against the impacts of climate change. This accelerates the delivery of both the Paris Agreement and the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Hence, international collaboration is crucial in mangrove restoration and conservation efforts.

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About Aysha Sadak

Aysha is an environmental journalist based in the UAE. She writes on the 3Ps, people, planet and politics. On the side, to channel her passion in bringing climate education to her people, she shares info-entertainment videos on her instagram page "The Climate Gaze" in her native language - Tamil. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and watching crime thriller series.

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