On June 28th and 29th, the Earth Day Network (EDN) attended an ‘Experts Forum on the Nationally Determined Contributions’ held in Rabat, Morocco. The Forum was one of several meetings that will be hosted by the government of Morocco in the lead up to the annual United Nations climate conference (COP22) that will be held in Marrakesh this November. Last year in Paris, almost every country in the world agreed to pursue the goal of limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As a result of that accomplishment, this Forum, like many of the other climate meetings that have happened since, have focused on how we can achieve this goal.
Among the subjects discussed during the two day forum were reforestation and climate literacy, two issues that EDN is hard at work on. Reforestation was first raised by a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) while he presented the findings of an FAO study that highlighted the importance of the agricultural sector to mitigating climate change. The study found that agriculture played a significant role in the climate commitments made by developing and developed countries alike, that the sector was unique in the fact that it could contribute to both adaptation and mitigation efforts, and that it provided great potential for making dual progress towards these national climate commitments and the global sustainable development goals.
Trees, of course, are tightly linked to the agricultural sector. In part, this is because beyond sequestering carbon and providing habitat for wildlife, they can also play an important role in providing food for people. Increasing tree cover can contribute to food security, benefit the local economy, prevent flooding, provide protection to watersheds, and more. For these reasons, reforestation was also raised in the context of adapting to changes brought on by climate change.
“We need to work with instead of against nature,” said Tilman Hertz of the International Climate Initiative. His area of specialty was ecosystem-based adaptation, so he described some of the ways communities can become more resilient to climate change by restoring and strengthening local ecosystems. Reforestation of mangrove forests was one example he used. If reforestation efforts helped restore mangroves to coastlines, this could sequester carbon, protect coastal communities from flooding, and provide economic benefits from things like organic shrimp farming. From his perspective, this provided a much better adaptation alternative than investing in a seawall, because it provided many more benefits in the long-term.
Another important subject EDN works on that was raised at the forum was climate literacy. When discussing the importance of universities to capacity-building efforts in developing countries, Fleur Monasso of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre emphasized that climate education needs to start at the elementary school level. In this way, schools can help create the type of awareness needed to address the world’s environmental challenges. We at Earth Day Network couldn’t agree more. That’s why we are dedicated to improving climate literacy internationally in K12 education.
As COP22 approaches, meetings like this one are an important way for all the different actors involved in climate policy to share ideas and enhance the ability of national governments to implement their climate commitments. EDN was not only glad to see the importance of issues like reforestation and climate literacy acknowledged during the forum, it was also pleased to witness the dedication of all present to creating a better future. The world will need that dedication, because there’s still a lot of work to do. As Eloïs Divol of the COP21 Presidency said in the forum’s opening session, “the real success hasn’t happened yet, we need implementation.”