While much of the focus at the G7 summit in Québec was on the antics of Donald Trump, the meeting actually produced something of a breakthrough for climate adaptation by coastal communities.
US President Donald Trump’s unconventional behaviour at the meeting of Group of Seven leading industrial powers dominated most media coverage of the summit. The US leader arrived late, left early, absented himself from the formal discussions on climate change, promoted fossil fuels instead, and then refused to sign the G7 final official communiqué due to its reaffirmation of the Paris Agreement.
Meanwhile, some real breakthroughs on international commitments to climate adaptation, coastal communities and issues at the crossroads of oceans, plastic pollution and global warming, were achieved during the high-level gathering hosted this year by Canada in Charlevoix, just northeast of Québec City.
The other G7 leaders came together to endorse the “Charlevoix Blueprint:” a new strategy for enhancing ocean and coastal “resilience,” a term that is increasingly used within the climate community to mean going beyond adaptation to global warming, but to maintain function in a way that improves on what went before.
Specifically, the Blueprint aims to develop better climate adaptation planning, emergency preparedness and recovery. The signatories are to identify policy gaps, vulnerabilities, and share expertise. In response to disasters, the Blueprint nations are to develop coastal management strategies that enable communities to “build back better,” with provisions to reconstruct both physical infrastructure and natural systems.
Where it can be done, nations are to favour “nature-based solutions” such as protection of wetlands, mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs. These represent natural habitats that protect communities against the impacts of storms and waves. Such strategies also represent what is coming to be called “low carbon resilience”—those actions or behaviours that are adaptive to climate change and mitigate it at the same time. These natural habitats prevent flooding and erosion, but because they can be carbon sinks, they also work to limit the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The Blueprint signatories also want to support such strategies amongst least developed countries, in particular the small island developing states (SIDS), including the efforts to develop early warning systems for extreme weather events. Canada for its part announced $162 million in this regard, focusing on the expansion of climate-risk insurance for Caribbean SIDS and coastal clean energy systems.
The Blueprint included an Ocean Plastics Charter, committing signatories to limiting plastic pollution. This was signed by five of the G7 member states but not Japan. Recent research mapping the origin of plastic waste aggregating in the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch concluded that the majority comes from abandoned fishing nets and fishing gear, primarily from Asian nations. Scientists reckon as much as 20 percent is debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
The G7 are also to launch an initiative to deploy Earth observation technologies to improve coastal zone management and support disaster risk prevention. G7 energy, environment and oceans ministers are due to meet in Halifax in the fall to develop concrete new actions in this area.
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