German Environment Minister Lemke, NGOs Highlight the Vital Role of Coastal Ecosystems and Communities and in Achieving Climate, Biodiversity Goals 

September 20, 2023

(New York City – September 20) On the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, German Federal Minister Steffi Lemke of the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety, and Consumer Protection (BMUV) and Sebastian Unger, Germany’s Special Representative for the Oceans, met with representatives from leading international Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) to highlight the vital role that coastal ecosystems and communities play in ensuring the ocean’s ability to curb climate change. The INGOs included Rare, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Conservation International (CI), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). During the meeting, the INGO partners commended Germany’s leadership in advancing the Agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), also known as Treaty of the High Seas, as an unprecedented step in ocean protection, and urged Ms. Lemke and Mr. Unger to pursue greater protection of coastal ecosystems and communities to tackle the interlinked climate, biodiversity and development crises. 

The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss how more resources for coastal areas are needed to achieve SDG 14: Life Below water. To date, SDG 14 remains the least funded among the 17 SDGs. In total, 150bn USD would need to be allocated to SDG14 annually to achieve meaningful impact for both people and planet

Focusing on the “Community Seas” 

During the meeting, Rare President Caleb McClennen praised Germany’s leadership in helping coastal nations build climate resilience, including Germany’s International Climate Initiative, which supported Rare’s work in the Asia Pacific to help communities build their climate resilience through locally-led, ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) measures. 

McClennen urged Lemke and Unger to ensure Germany continues to be a global leader for greater attention and resources to the “community seas,” referring to coastal ocean waters extending 12 nautical miles from shore under the jurisdiction of nations, and where high human use meets high biodiversity. Measures that pair sustainable use with effective protection, while establishing local control and enhancing the rights of small-scale fishers, are proven to yield positive benefits for people and nature.  

Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) as an underrated entry point for sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation. 

Eric Schwaab, EDF Senior Vice President, People and Nature, underscored small-scale fisheries are a crucially important source of livelihoods and nutrition. Yet, small-scale or artisanal fishers are undercounted, undervalued, and greatly underserved. Financial flows targeting the SSF sector are a small fraction both of philanthropic giving, as well as of sovereign ODA. While their title may be misleading, SSF are far from small: analysis of the UN FAO estimated that SSF account for at least 40 percent of global fish catch from capture fisheries and provide jobs for some 60.2 million people representing approximately USD$77 billion in total revenue. 

Coastal & Nature-based Solutions in Coastal Ecosystems are crucial to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.

Lina Barerra, Senior Vice President for Global Policy and Government Affairs of CI, recognized the negative impacts of climate change on ocean and coastal ecosystems, ocean-dependent communities and Large Ocean States. Nature-based Solutions in coastal and marine ecosystems (coastal and marine NbS) would be critical to sustainably manage and restore coastal and marine ecosystems in ways that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively. As a best practice example, Barerra made reference to Mangrove Breakthrough as a science-based, measurable, and achievable goal for non-state actors and governments to collectively restore and protect mangroves at the scale needed to secure the future of these vital coastal forests 

Human-rights-based approaches as a gateway to equitable achievement of biodiversity and climate targets.

Monica Medina, President and CEO of WCS, described how the new Global Biodiversity Framework – and especially Target 3, the global “30×30” target to protect and conserve at least 30% of the land, freshwater, and ocean of our planet – is catalyzing a paradigm shift in how we do conservation linked to a Human Rights Based Approach (HBRA). Many Indigenous Peoples and local communities are at the heart of protecting nature as natural custodians. Conservation practitioners and funders have ethical and legal obligations to ensure that conservation efforts comply with international human rights principles and law. Additionally, there is not only a moral and legal imperative for equitable conservation but also a pragmatic one, as biological diversity, cultural diversity, and high-integrity ecosystems are all interlinked. Centering collaborative, community-led, and customary approaches when working in territorial/community seas is critical to tackle interlinked biodiversity and climate crises. 

Collectively, the INGO partners emphasized the upcoming UNFCCC COP28 in Dubai as an opportunity for countries to call for increased ambition and financing for nature-positive coastal and marine solutions; including announcements of international assistance for habitat restoration and conservation, and other ocean-based climate solutions. Collectively, the partners acknowledged the important announcement made by the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, one year ago, that Germany would make 1.5 billion euros available annually for international biodiversity conservation starting from 2025. Recognizing both the opportunity and challenge presented by this, the INGO partners underscored their collective support of Germany’s historic commitment and expressed ongoing willingness and interest to collaborate in support of implementation.