Seychelles Champions Coastal Wetlands in Climate Commitments

Seagrass at heart of the country’s next steps to protect the ocean

Seychelles Champions Coastal Wetlands in Climate Commitments
Seychelles
A shark swims through seagrass in the Seychelles, where plans to protect coastal wetlands are part of the country’s updated nationally determined contribution to the Paris Agreement, which outlines climate actions and related targets.
Matthew Morgan/Island Conservation Society

Situated almost 1,000 miles off the East African coast, the 115 islands that form the Seychelles archipelago contain one of the largest and most biologically diverse marine ecosystems on the planet. Endangered dugongs, turtles, sharks, and a wealth of other marine life inhabit these rich waters.

The people of Seychelles, or Seychellois, have long recognized the importance of protecting their seas, both for this biological diversity and for the ocean’s role in sustaining people and livelihoods. Seychelles was one of the first countries to commit to protecting at least 30% of its own waters—encompassing innovative conservation finance models such as “debt for nature swap” and blue bonds—and is now at the forefront of international negotiations to agree upon a global target of protecting 30% of the world’s ocean.

Today, the country is embarking on its latest chapter in ocean leadership: protecting coastal wetlands such as seagrass within its next nationally determined contribution (NDC) in order to help deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Seychelles
The Seychelles will map the extent of its seagrass meadows, seen above, in national waters and their associated carbon stocks.
Matthew Morgan/Island Conservation Society

Every five years parties to the Paris Agreement submit updated domestic commitments to combat climate change through an NDC. Coastal wetlands such as seagrass, mangrove, and saltmarsh ecosystems are currently the only nature-based marine solutions that can measurably contribute to a country’s emissions reductions, as recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s methodologies.

In addition to their quantifiable mitigation value, coastal wetlands provide a wealth of adaptation benefits to climate change, such as helping to buffer shorelines and frontline communities from severe storms and flooding. These benefits for people, biodiversity, and the climate—across the full spectrum of mitigation, adaptation, and broader aspects of resilience—make coastal wetlands a “triple win” solution. 

Seychelles is one of several countries considering the role that nature-based solutions can play within these collective efforts to achieve global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. In particular, the Government of Seychelles is exploring the role that seagrass protections can play in its next NDC.

“Seagrasses typify the kind of habitats we need to better protect—for people, nature, and the climate,” said Wills Agricole, principal secretary for energy and climate change. “Seychelles has a proud history of ocean leadership and big ambitions to further this standing. Working with partners, we will remain at the cutting edge of understanding and protecting our blue carbon ecosystems.”

While the broader benefits of protecting seagrass ecosystems are well understood, as compared to other “blue carbon ecosystems” such as mangrove and saltmarsh, their submerged nature poses challenges to mapping specific locations and determining their carbon storage potential. To support the Government of Seychelles’ goal of protecting their seagrass ecosystems, Pew is working alongside partners at the University of Seychelles, the University of Oxford, Seychelles Conservation and Climate  Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Island Conservation Society, and a range of local stakeholders to apply the latest remote-sensing methods and carbon assessment techniques to develop a field-validated map of the extent of seagrass meadows and associated carbon stocks in Seychelles waters.

Seychelles
Coastal wetlands, including seagrass in the Seychelles, provide benefits for people, biodiversity, and the climate, making them a “triple win” nature-based solution.
Matthew Morgan/Island Conservation Society

“Pioneering new scientific approaches that further our understanding of the benefits our ocean provides reaffirms Seychelles’ global commitment to ocean protection,” said Angelique Pouponneau, CEO of SeyCCAT. “Our hope is that this work will not only be central to Seychelles’ NDC, but can also provide knowledge that can be shared globally.”

As the Government of Seychelles refines specific targets and goals for the NDC, its attention to mapping and protecting seagrass meadows shows a clear desire to remain at the leading edge of global ocean conservation.

Thomas Hickey is a senior officer and Stacy Baez is an officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ protecting coastal wetlands and coral reefs project.

The front facade of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC.
ian-hutchinson-U8WfiRpsQ7Y-unsplash.jpg_master

Agenda for America

A collection of resources to help federal, state, and local decision-makers set an achievable agenda for all Americans

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for emerging challenges, it makes government more effective and better able to serve the public interest. In the coming months, President Joe Biden and the 117th Congress will tackle a number of environmental, health, public safety, and fiscal and economic issues—nearly all of them complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help solve specific, systemic problems in a nonpartisan fashion, Pew has compiled a series of briefings and recommendations based on our research, technical assistance, and advocacy work across America.

Lightbulbs
Lightbulbs

States of Innovation

Data-driven state policy innovations across America

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for difficult challenges. When states serve their traditional role as laboratories of innovation, they increase the American people’s confidence that the government they choose—no matter the size—can be effective, responsive, and in the public interest.