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Coastal habitats for climate change adaptation at COP26

Jazz Austin, Policy Officer at the RSPB and part of Link's Blueprint for Water Group, discusses why our freshwater and coastal habitats need greater recognition as part of the solution to the twin climate and nature crises.

November 2021

As governments from around the world update their climate commitments at COP26, it is vital that our freshwater and coastal habitats are recognised as part of the solution to the dual climate and nature crises. RSPB, alongside the Environment Agency, will be hosting an event at COP26, that will be livestreamed globally to highlight this opportunity and amplify some of the global projects already implementing this.

The coastal water environment presents a significant opportunity to implement nature-based solutions to help communities adapt to climate change and biodiversity to recover. Nature-based solutions are actions to enhance or work with nature that also bring benefits for people, for example our health and well-being, or for our economy. This interactive storymap by the RSPB, illustrates the value of coastal and intertidal habitats for climate, wildlife and people, whilst identifying potential sites for habitat creation.

Nature-based solutions can take many practical forms, however as defined by the IUCN, the actions must ‘protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.’ The IUCN have recently published a Global Standard for nature-based solutions to help ensure that interventions robustly address societal challenges, which will be promoted at COP26 as helpful tool for enabling nature-based solutions to be designed, assessed, and scaled.

RSPB are part of Blueprint for Water, a coalition of over 20 environmental, water efficiency, fisheries and recreational organisations that come together to form a powerful joint voice for the water environment. We recently published our vision document, titled ‘Actions to recover England’s waters and wildlife’, which clearly identifies the potential for nature-based solutions to reduce the impacts of extreme weather on the environment and people. This emphasises that current climate adaptation plans are not being delivered at the pace or scale required to mitigate the projected risks. Many of Blueprint for Water’s member organisations partner with government authorities, businesses, local communities, and other groups to help deliver nature-based solutions across England and further afield.

Tools that enable well-designed action are important, as coastal communities are increasingly at risk from flooding due to coastal erosion, storm surges and rising sea levels. In the UK, and around the world, there are numerous examples of coastal projects delivering schemes which are providing benefits to local people and wildlife by protecting areas from the impacts of climate change and creating important habitats.

To find out more about these inspiring examples, the RSPB, in partnership with the Environment Agency, are hosting an event in the Green Zone of COP26, which will showcase successful examples of nature-based solutions in coastal wetlands with projects represented from the UK, China, South Korea and the Cayman Islands. The event will premiere of an inspirational film highlighting coastal habitat restoration, followed by an expert Q&A panel discussion.

The event is called ‘Coast to coast: nature-based solutions for climate, biodiversity and people – lessons learned and stories from the ground’ and will be livestreamed globally on the official COP26 YouTube channel on Sunday 7 November 2021 at 10:30am. To watch the event live, and for more information about the event, projects represented and partner organisations, visit the event webpage.

More COP26 events for your diary…

All Green Zone events will be livestream through the official COP26 YouTube channel, and you can explore the full programme on the COP26 website. Many Blue Zone events will be livestreamed by individual organisers. Here is a selection of events that Blueprint members are involved with across the Green and Blue Zone:

Green zone events

Tuesday 2nd November, 13:30-14:30

Unlocking the nature/net zero balance - exploring the twin challenge of tackling climate change while preserving and enhancing our natural environment. 

Hosted by Water UK, with speakers from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and RSPB. Watch live on YouTube. 

Blue zone events

Thursday 4th November, 09:00-10.00

Hope comes out of the blue: Inspiring climate action from source to sea

Hosted in the Water Pavilion, in partnership with Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Managements (S2S Platform), SIWI, UNDP, Kingdom of the Netherlands, WWT, MCS, WDC. Watch live through Water for Climate's website. 

Monday 8th November, 11:00-12:30

Partners for Wetlands: Decade for Wetland Restoration 

Co-ordinated by the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands in the Global Peatland Pavilion, WWT will be speaking at this event. Register here to view the livestream. 

Installations in the Blue Zone 

The Missing Salmon Alliance and global collective of salmon conservation organisations have supported the inspiring Salmon School art installation which will be displayed in the Blue zone of COP26. Both the Angling Trust and Rivers Trust are members of the Missing Salmon Alliance. 


Jazz Austin is a Policy Officer at the RSPB. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.