BLUE is a charity dedicated to restoring ocean health by addressing overfishing and promoting the important role of blue carbon in mitigating the impacts of climate change. The UK Branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation supported BLUE to host a pioneering international conference on blue carbon in 2021 ahead of COP26. This led to the creation of the UK Blue Carbon Forum, a coalition of marine NGOs, policy makers and scientists focused on advancing domestic blue carbon climate solutions. The Foundation also funded BLUE’s immersive video installation at COP26 on blue carbon habitats, which is now on permanent display in the Calouste Gulbenkian Wing at the Lisbon Planetarium.
Blue Carbon Conference 2021
Blue carbon plays a central yet little-known role in the well-being and health of the environment, communities, and the economy. The term refers to the process of sequestering and storing of carbon dioxide by marine and coastal habitats such as mangroves and tidal marshes, which proliferate across the globe. The sustainable management of such habitats – the challenges and opportunities behind it – was the subject of Blue Carbon: a New Frontier for Conservation?, a pioneering international conference hosted by BLUE on 9 June 2021. Bringing together leading international blue carbon scientists and policymakers, the conference aimed to unite the community and share evidence about the human impact in the health of blue carbon systems and to build momentum ahead of COP26. Participants recognised the need for better coordination between scientists, government agencies, and NGOs and for putting sustainable ocean management at the core of climate change agendas. Commercial activities at sea, such as deep-sea trawling, are at the core of debates on the health of the ocean, and therefore of the environment, which makes the engagement of coastal communities and broader politics crucial for the success and growth of blue carbon projects. The Foundation contributed to £22,000 to the development and delivery of the conference.
The establishment of the UK Blue Carbon Forum, which builds on the success of the conference, acknowledges the vital role of community engagement and of collaboration between NGOs, scientists, and civil servants to catalyse policies to protect the ocean and, inextricably, the climate. Speaking to the community-centred approach we have promoted through the years with our climate and ocean programmes, stakeholders agree that local community involvement is critical for the long-term effectiveness of blue carbon projects. In light of UNFCCC process, this Forum will enable an increase in the profile of blue carbon habitats and will ensure that marine protection networks also support climate resilience in a manner “which should be inclusive of everybody, from the markets, to the science, to the policy.”
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Blue Carbon Habitats Installation
On the occasion of COP26, BLUE created an immersive video installation representing the climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits offered by blue carbon habitats. The video, below, was exhibited in the main café of the Blue Zone (the UN negotiating zone) at COP26, with future iterations during climate-ocean events in 2022 planned, including at the UN Ocean Conference. The video is also permanently on display in the Calouste Gulbenkian Wing, inaugurated in November 2021, at the Lisbon Planetarium. The Foundation funded the development of the film with £58,500.