Earth Day, the 22nd of April, seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the work that has been done to face arguably the most pressing threat to our planet, climate change. Anthropogenic emissions of CO2, and other greenhouse gases, have led to an increase in the average global temperature by about 1oC since the beginning of the industrial revolution. This has resulted in ice cap melting, sea level rising, mass coral bleaching, more frequent and ferocious storms, more drought, more flooding – the list goes on. But it’s not all bad news! The Paris Climate Accord in 2015 was signed by almost every country in the world marking a pledge from each nation to tackle its contribution to the global problem. In addition, the 13th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG13) has outlined the need to take steps towards integrating climate change into long-term action plans.
SeyCCAT has directed over SCR 5.3 million of funding to projects which are working towards SDG13 through either direct action, raising awareness, implementing management strategies or addressing national policy. One major natural habitat that can help in the battle against climate change is the mangrove ecosystem. It not only acts as a carbon sink but also prevents floods, protects shorelines and provides a habitat for a plethora of species. In Pasquiere, Praslin, there has been a loss of 90% of mangrove as a result of land reclamation, sedimentation, pollution and the introduction and spread of invasive alien species. A project part funded by SeyCCAT has set about rehabilitating this vital wetland with the involvement of the community and schools. So far, they have managed to clear invasive species from a hectare of land, propagated 900 mangrove seedlings and collected baseline environmental data to assess the biodiversity, helping to inform future management.
A new small-grant project in the Mont Fleuri wetlands is similarly encouraging the continued regeneration of mangroves through planting, as well as the construction of raised walkways to improve access for both the planters and visiting schoolchildren. Their aim is to encourage these students to identify the key species of mangrove ecosystems and raise awareness about the importance of this habitat. The improvement of education and awareness is integral for long-term resilience and encompasses climate change mitigation, adaptation and impact-reduction strategies. SeyCCAT-funded projects with this aim, for which over SCR 1.5 million has been granted, are spreading their messages to people from all demographics throughout Seychelles.
Currently, two separate projects are each creating a series of documentaries: “Proze Caiman” and “Nou leker ble.” The former, exclusively in Creole, is focused on the river system and mangroves, how these ecosystems benefit the wider environment, and the threats they are facing, specifically from pollution. Throughout the filming of this two-part series, the project proponents will also be planting mangroves and cleaning up polluted areas. The latter project aims to change people’s mindsets, making them more conscious of the state of our marine environment. This series, covering topics like climate change, plastic pollution and vulnerable species, will be released on accessible platforms and local TV to enable as many people to watch them as possible. SeyCCAT has also funded the creation and publication of an engaging workbook for schools about the Blue Economy and the re-publication and translation into Creole of “A Citizen’s Guide to Climate Change” to help spread knowledge, skills and understanding.
Though replanting schemes and personal social responsibility are important, large-scale and longer-term management and protection schemes are vital. Seychelles has already taken unprecedented action for environmental protections by designating 30% of its Exclusive Economic Zone as Marine Protected Areas and SeyCCAT is funding further work aimed at gathering data to both improve existing management strategies and identify more areas to protect. In a project led by the Seychelles Island Foundation, in conjunction with Oxford University and the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, genetic data and ocean computer modelling are being used to map coral larvae. By studying the connectivity between Seychelles coral reefs, the project hopes to determine the reefs that likely supply larvae to others, making them critical for recolonisation after disturbance events, like the recent widespread bleaching, and, therefore, vital to protecting. In a similar vein, satellite tracking of sooty terns fledging from Bird Island is helping to gather information on foraging hotspots for these juveniles which, in turn, will identify important areas for these migratory birds that should be protected.
Lastly, maintaining the momentum of climate action through national policy is essential for implementing lasting change. For Seychelles, the potential of Blue Carbon, and the opportunities it opens up, is an exciting and innovation-rich part of achieving its Nationally Determined Contribution for carbon emissions and remaining a net carbon sink. At US President Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate, only 2 days ahead of Earth Day, Minister Flavien Joubert of the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Energy, announced Seychelles’ latest climate ambition: to protect at least 50% of coastal wetlands by 2025 and 100% by 2030. The offsetting capacity of marine ecosystems, like seagrass meadows and mangroves, is the focus of two SeyCCAT funded projects: Roadmap to blue carbon opportunities and the Coastal wetlands and climate change project. Their aims, among others, are to quantify Seychelles’ carbon stocks and create a roadmap for Blue Carbon opportunities. This could mean that many of the costs of achieving emission reductions in the energy and transport sector could be met through international climate financing and Blue Carbon markets.
Events like Earth Day serve as a reminder of the responsibility we all have to help preserve our beautiful planet, the incredible biodiversity it supports and the livelihoods of the people who share it with us. To safeguard it for future generations, a forward-thinking policy and restorative action must go hand-in-hand.