UNFCCC COP28 marked an important milestone for seagrass with the announcement of the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough

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The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Office – Abu Dhabi announced the initiative at the event ”Preserving the World’s Biodiversity Heritage”, held on 5 December 2023 in the UAE Pavilion at UNFCCC COP28.  The initiative, spearheaded by the CMS Office – Abu Dhabi in collaboration with the UN High-Level Climate Champion for the UNFCCC COP28 leadership team, aims to establish a collective framework of action for seagrass conservation worldwide, aligning with global agendas.

Ms Rouba Abou-Atieh, Executive Coordinator of the CMS Office – Abu Dhabi stated I’m extremely delighted to announce a groundbreaking initiative, the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough, spearheaded by my incredible CMS Team in Abu Dhabi in collaboration with UN High-Level Climate Champions. This initiative aims to establish a collective framework for seagrass conservation worldwide, aligning with global agendas such as the Sharm-El Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, Race to Resilience, and Race to Zero ”.

On 9 December,  H.E. Mariam Almehri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the UAE, formally announced that the UAE had joined the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough during her remarks at the COP28 Core Nature Day Event – “From Agreement to Action”. The event looked at how governments are delivering their commitment to conserve, protect, and restore at least 30% of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030. The UAE is the first country to officially join and its endorsement marks a crucial starting point under the broader Ocean Breakthroughs Initiative.

To further support the initiative, the CMS Office – Abu Dhabi hosted a dialogue with key stakeholders on 12 December 2023. Held at the UAE Pavilion, the event aimed to open discussions on the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough and collect cross-sectoral feedback to help shape the initiative. Distinguished speakers included HE Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for the COP28 leadership team; HE Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD); HE Dr Mohammed Al Hammadi, Undersecretary of the Ministry for Climate Change and Environment in the UAE; Mr David Cooper, Acting Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); and, Mr Almotaz Abadi, Deputy Secretary General in charge of Water, Environment and Blue Economy, Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).

During the dialogue, H.E. Razan Al Mubarak noted, “A breakthrough provides a compass by which governments and non-Parties stakeholders can chart their course. The 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough will help provide the required attention to leverage this critical ecosystem to deliver on our global biodiversity and climate targets.

At the event, the UAE re-confirmed its commitment to the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough, with Mr Almotaz Abadi, announcing the support of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).

H.E. Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi recognizes seagrass as a critical marine ecosystem, given its essential role in climate change mitigation through its highly effective capacity to capture and store carbon. We are fully committed to supporting the Breakthrough’s diverse initiatives aimed at achieving the ambitious targets set for the preservation of this crucial habitat, benefiting our precious and vulnerable marine life and environment”.

Following the event, H.E. Dr Mohammed Al Hammadi said, “With the historic UAE Consensus achieved by the UAE COP28 Presidency, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is committed to implementing pathbreaking initiatives to achieve the goals set and serve as a model in climate action”.

He added, “Seagrass isn’t just underwater vegetation; it’s a crucial player in our marine ecosystems and a powerful ally against climate change. The UAE is delighted to be the first country in the world to join the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough. The initiative, among the many accomplishments at COP28, will help to create a coordinated global approach to seagrass conservation and ensure its long-term protection. We urge governments, businesses, and communities to support the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough. Protecting seagrass is a shared responsibility with global implications but together, we can make a significant impact”.

The event was also attended by representatives from the private sector, including financial institutions such as HSBC and Standard Chartered, and inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Emirates Nature-WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Building on the success of the existing Coral and Mangrove Breakthroughs, the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough aims to mobilize a broad range of state and non-state actors, from governments, intergovernmental organizations to technical experts, civil society, private sector, indigenous and local communities and funding agencies, to accelerate a comprehensive, coordinated global approach to seagrass conservation and restoration at a significant scale and in alignment with international climate-related commitments.

Ms. Rouba Abou-Atieh, Executive Coordinator of CMS Office – Abu Dhabi added: “Endorsing the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough transcends boundaries, fuelling progress toward global agreements and ecosystem transformation. It aligns with the Paris Agreement, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, Ramsar resolutions, 30×30 targets, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and the UN Decade of Ocean Science.”

Seagrass, an often overlooked and under protected ecosystem, has enormous potential as a marine Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for mitigating the impacts of climate change. Seagrass meadows cover approximately 0.1% of the ocean surface, provide 18% of the ocean’s carbon storage and support 20% of the world’s largest fisheries, but are shrinking at a rate of 7% per year.

The 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough will be officially launched on 1 March 2024, World Seagrass Day.

For more information on the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough, see 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough and the 2030 Seagrass Breakthrough leaflet.