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Conservation International Marine Climate Change Expert Jennifer Howard to Testify Before Congressional Committee on Climate Crisis

October 22, 2019

Washington, D.C. (October 22, 2019) – Conservation International Director of Marine Climate Change Jennifer Howard will testify today before Congress at the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis at a hearing entitled: Solving the Climate Crisis: Natural Solutions to Cutting Pollution and Building Resilience. The Committee on the Climate Crisis is charged with delivering ambitious climate policy recommendations to Congress.

Howard’s testimony will initially highlight the impact of climate change on the ocean. She will then focus on the surprising and largely untapped ways marine ecosystems can serve as a source of climate solutions and innovation, calling them “no-regret” strategies for climate mitigation and adaption.

Howard’s testimony will later feature these four key areas and recommendations:

The role of “blue carbon” ecosystems as significant carbon sinks: Habitats such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses sequester and store up to 10 times more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. “Governments should recognize the significant carbon impact from these ecosystems, and that protecting and effectively restoring wetlands is a key, but mostly forgotten tool, in the fight against climate change,” Howard will testify. “The U.S. should expand and accelerate conservation and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems for climate mitigation as well as refine its use of coastal wetlands within the US GHG inventory.”

Including “green-gray options” in coastal protection and budget plans: Green-gray infrastructure – conventional engineering approaches combined with conservation or restoration – provide significant climate resilience and adaptation solutions and environmental benefits. “For all these reasons, Conservation International has launched a green-gray infrastructure program to support communities around the world cope with the impacts of climate change, and we encourage U.S. decision makers to include green-gray options in their coastal protection and budget plans,” Howard will recommend.

Sustainable Fisheries for Climate Adaptation: Half of the world's wild-caught fisheries are overexploited or depleted and aquaculture – fish farming – has resulted in widespread coastal pollution and habitat destruction. Yet sustainable aquaculture approaches are not widely used, due to lack of capacity or economic incentives. “Conservation International has implemented successful initiatives to improve the environmental sustainability and social benefits of fisheries and aquaculture. “We recommend the committee promote effective fisheries and aquaculture management that provides adaptive capacity for communities and the industry and protects critical ocean biodiversity,” Howard will say.

Ocean protection at scale: Marine protected areas increase the ability of oceans, marine life, to adapt to climate change. In fact, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has called for 30 percent of the ocean to be placed in marine protected areas. Howard will recommend that “the U.S. support the creation and sustainable management of ocean conservation areas as a climate adaptation strategy, specifically aid going to large ocean states.”

“Ultimately, the ocean, its coastal regions, and the economic activities they support should be a source of inspiration and hope in the fight against climate change. With the backdrop of a growing climate catastrophe, the timing of this Committee Hearing is critical, and there could not be a more compelling case for urgent action,” Howard will conclude.

About Conservation International

Conservation International uses science, policy and partnerships to protect the nature that people rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods. Founded in 1987, Conservation International works in more than 30 countries on six continents to ensure a healthy, prosperous planet that supports us all. Learn more about Conservation International, the groundbreaking “Nature Is Speaking” campaign and its series of virtual reality projects: “Drop in the Ocean”, “My Africa,” “Under the Canopy” and “Valen’s Reef.” Follow Conservation International’s work on our Human Nature blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.