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Updated: Dec 4, 2023

As someone dedicated to re-connecting Caribbean people to the ocean, I've seen firsthand the devastating effects of inadequate funding on programs focused on ocean literacy and local capacity development. This threatens biodiversity and human resilience in the face of climate change. We need holistic ocean-climate action in the #COP28 dialogue, and people empowerment is vital. It's time for us not just to talk but act upon a nature-people-positive future for the ocean.

🌍 The recent inclusion of the ocean in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( UNFCC—2022) was a significant milestone, recognizing the ocean’s vital importance to livelihoods, biodiversity, and the climate system. But we need more substantial action to ensure a positive, long-term support system for both people and nature.

Let's change the narrative around local ocean heroes, shifting from impoverished individuals to representatives of freedom and prosperity. Those most affected by the changing climate should benefit the most from solution building. We must consider this at every level of the process to make the urgent impact we need this decade. Remember, SIDS and territories have contributed the least to climate change, yet the potential costs are disproportionately more significant for us. With limited access to finance, support must prioritize the well-being of our people and livelihoods now and for future generations.

So, how can we explicitly bring people into the climate dialogue? Let's highlight the value of the ocean as our superpower. We must invest in expanding ocean literacy in local communities so our people and leaders can truly appreciate the breadth of nature-based climate solutions (and new climate finance initiatives and instruments available) to create dynamic and impactful opportunities for socio-economic development. The ocean-climate sector offers more than just beach clean-ups and research surveys. From finance and AI to art and music, there's something for everyone to contribute to ocean solutions!

High-level executives of large NGOs and global leaders must prioritize ‘practical financing’ and positive action for nature and people that best supports the day-to-day expenses and investments needed for organizations and individual 'blue champions' on the ground. Practical financing recognizes that sometimes people need cash, and they need to be able to decide how they spend it without restriction. Such finance options build security and personal resilience to prevent burnout in the field. It helps us to keep some of the best and most dedicated individuals from leaving the field, withdrawing participation, or seeking more lucrative opportunities elsewhere.

We must challenge policymakers and local governments to protect the interests and well-being of island communities while integrating nature-positive solutions. People empowerment is complex but has the most significant potential to accelerate action and support meeting the Paris Goals.

By involving a more comprehensive range of individuals in advisory boards and funding committees, we can create an environment for our people to thrive. Let's make the upcoming Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) in Antigua and Barbuda ( May 27-30, 2024) a turning point in addressing the impacts of climate change on vulnerable nations. Together, we can pursue efficient and morally right solutions.

If your organization operating in Island nations still needs a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) lead or division, it's time to get that done. Prioritize inclusive governance, allocate larger budgets for local ecological knowledge and community engagement, and recognize the value that local people and communities bring to innovative ocean-climate solutions. By providing resources and space for island actionists to share their experiences, we can uncover and guide best practices and design more creative advocacy campaigns.

While unregulated high seas and overfishing pose significant global challenges, let's keep sight of the underresourced inactive fisherfolk cooperatives and associations on islands, hindering optimal collaborations with perhaps our most underrated yet powerful allies.

Friends, together, let's create a bluer and more sustainable future for small islands and territories that puts people's empowerment at the core of ocean-climate dialogue and action!

Veta Wade

Ocean-Climate solutionist. Founder of Fish ‘N Fins Inc. and Montserrat Marine Megafauna Project. Read The Framework for Equitable Collaboration Blue Economy Framework. You can contact me at Subject: BlueZone.

Thank you for reading and supporting this effort. If you have a year-end budget, consider hiring me to speak to your organization or make a tangible contribution here.

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