Global collaboration for the oceans

Relay4Nature is an international collaboration between leaders, innovators and advocates for matters regarding sustainability and our joint responsibility of the global oceans. Prior to the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26 in Glasgow in November, a campaign has been launched to highlight the importance of a stronger ocean governance by gathering messages from important ocean advocates. Our marine ecosystems affect and are affected by climate change, and they play a crucial role if we are to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.

However, unlike sectors such as industries, transportation and food production, it has been a way slower process to include marine matters on the agenda. It is only in recent years that the sea has gained an increased importance also in the negotiations.

On May 14, participants in the Relay4Nature campaign arrived in Stockholm to meet former Minister of Climate and Environment, Isabella Lövin and the Baltic Sea Center's scientific leader Christoph Humborg.

Coastal areas are crucial for climate mitigation

The message of Christoph Humborg and his colleagues at the Baltic Sea Center  describes an important measure for successful climate work: if we take care of our coastal zones responsibly, we have the opportunity to efficiently store greenhouse gases such as methane and prevent them from reaching the atmosphere. But this requires that we reduce human impact, such as eutrophication of the oceans. In the message baton that now sets sail for the negotiations in November, the researchers convey the following:

Read the full note from the Baltic Sea Centre:

"Preserve the Coastal Ecosystems for Climate Mitigation - Baltic Sea Centre urges world leaders to act"

May 14, 2021:

The coastal zones are among the most effective areas on earth at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, so called ‘blue carbon’. Treated right, these ecosystems are important cornerstones in climate change mitigation, but if degraded, they instead release large amounts of greenhouse gases, re-enforcing global warming. Urgent action is needed to preserve and restore the coasts and use these systems to work in favour of the climate - not against it.

Currently, there is ongoing degradation of important coastal ecosystems caused by the impacts of climate change, coupled with other anthropogenic environmental pressures, such as eutrophication, pollution and exploitation.

There is growing concern that warming in high-latitude regions may lead to a release of stored methane from, for example, the arctic tundra, which can further exacerbate climate change. Less acknowledged is the fact that the same may apply to shallow coastal zones in the Baltic Sea, too. Measurements in the Baltic Sea during the heat wave 2018 showed record-high levels of released methane. The Baltic Sea is considered a ‘time machine’ for the world’s coastal zones, because it experiences the effects of climate change at an accelerated rate while also suffering from multiple other human stressors.

Unlike the methane release expected at the tundra, however, the release of greenhouse gases from the shallow coast is not an irreversible process. Although heating enhances the release of methane, it can be prevented by moderating other pressures. Taking measures to reduce eutrophication and stop physical disturbance in shallow waters could lead to the re-establishment of carbon sequestering systems such as seagrasses.

Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre is proud to be part of Relay4Nature - a product of two years of collaborative work between Richard Brisius, Chairman of The Ocean Race and Ambassador Peter Thomson, United Nations Secretary - General's Special Envoy for the Ocean. Joint efforts for increasing actions to preserve healthy oceans, especially the coasts, will be beneficial for livelihoods, food security, recreational opportunities and biodiversity, but it is also an effective strategy for climate mitigation.

An important policy tool for the Baltic Sea is the Helsinki convention, HELCOM, the guiding principles and obligations signed by the HELCOM parties to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea. A new Baltic Sea Action Plan will be decided at Ministerial level Oct 2021. The Baltic Sea Centre urges HELCOM ministerial meeting in Oct 2021 to decide on a stronger Baltic Sea Action Plan, including recognising the key role of the coastal ecosystem for climate mitigation.

Read more:

"Relay4Nature engages with leading ocean advocates in Swedish capital"