Youth Dialogue on Wetlands and Climate Action!

On the 19th of October 2020, Youth Engaged in Wetlands and Wetlands International hosted a virtual Youth Dialogue on Wetlands and Climate Action. The purpose of this dialogue was to provide a space for young people engaged in different intersecting topics related to wetlands conservation and climate change to explore, share perspectives and assess the integration of wetlands within countries' climate action.



The following report is a summary of the presentations and the discussions that took place thanks to the active participation of +30 participants from around the world. This report aims to support this new community in establishing the next steps for action. Check out the Next Steps to learn how you can get involved!


If you have any questions, please contact communication@wetlands.org and youthengagedinwetlands@gmail.com.


1. Learning – Summary of the Presentation


Through the series of presentations, we had a chance to learn about the Nationally Determined Contributions which lie at the heart of the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the prevalence of nature-based solutions in countries’ climate plans. We also learned about the status of wetlands and the carbon stocks that they represent around the world, understanding their key role in climate change mitigation. We also had the chance to hear from the Ministry of the Environment of Panama, which has already taken the steps to integrate coastal wetlands in the NDCs. A short bullet-point summary of each presentation is provided here.


“Nature-Based Solutions in the NDCs”

Talia Chorover – Knowledge Tools and Research Specialist, NDC Partnership

  • The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Partnership supports countries in their NDC implementation and enhancement, delivering technical and financial support through “requests”

  • Nature-based solutions, which include wetlands, provide complimentary benefits across mitigation and adaptation – double and triple dividends!

  • Nature-based solutions (NbS) have the potential to underpin countries’ other commitments like the Sustainable Development Goals

  • 130 out of 196 countries have included nature-based solutions in their first round of NDCs BUT only 28% of countries have included details on the scope and process of implementing their NbS actions

  • The challenge: How to encourage countries to expand the inclusion of NbS in a way that is detailed and measurable?

  • Nature-based solutions Requests submitted to the NDC Partnership focus strongly on adaptation efforts (41%) while mitigation focus efforts are significantly lower (12%) suggesting an opportunity for expansion

  • “Budgeting and investment” represent the largest number of requests for support

  • A number of countries have included wetlands in their Climate Plans, as a part of their NDCs – e.g. Burkina Faso is reducing the vulnerability of natural resource-dependent livelihoods by restoring the country’s wetland ecosystems; Uganda is collecting data on the vulnerability of the country’s wetlands to strengthen its NDC; Panama is working with international experts to estimate the country’s blue carbon potential; Jordan is working on the conservation of sea grass ecosystems for natural carbon sequestration, establishing and adopting inventive programs for sustainable range management, etc.

Key concluding remarks:

  • NbS requests from countries are well-supported by NDC partners but make up a small percentage of requests

  • NbS linkages to key sectors, such as water, waste, energy and building have yet to be made when looking at Partnership requests

  • Countries not requesting much Monitoring and Evaluation support, which is a known area of importance for NbS implementation

“The role of Wetlands in Climate Action”

Gina Lovett – Head of Advocacy and Communications, Wetlands International

  • Wetlands around the world are disappearing or under-threat.

  • Some major wetlands are on fire: Parana Delta in Argentina, the Pantanal in Brazil and Arctic wetlands

  • Climate change and drainage (removal of water) for the expansion of agriculture or cities is triggering these fires, threatening wetland ecosystems and their services

  • This destruction is reducing wetlands’ buffering capacity and their ability to manage floods and storms, to store and slowly release water – their destruction is making these landscapes more vulnerable to fire, drought, subsidence and flooding

  • We need to be moving in the other direction towards healthy wetlands to build resilience to climate change

  • Peatland focus - Peat is partially decayed organic matter, which is accumulated over hundreds to thousands of years, kept intact by being submerged in water. When water is removed, the soil oxidizes and can release greenhouse gases like Carbon Dioxide and Methane

  • Peatland focus - Different land uses have a severe impact on the water table and the release of greenhouse gases from peatlands

What can be done to accelerate mitigation?

  • Safeguard the remaining intact carbon megastores

  • Restore what is degraded


“Coastal Wetlands into Climate Action in Panama”

Belen Castillo – Climate Change Analyst, Ministry of the Environment of Panama

  • Panama has a great extension of coasts, with 174,790 ha of mangroves, the coastal sites are very important for the economy and biodiversity

  • Panama is already experiencing the impacts of climate change

  • Coastal wetlands are part of the solution

  • Panama is working to integrate nature-based solutions and coastal wetlands for climate action and policymaking, integrating blue carbon into their Nationally Determined Contributions.

  • Integrating coastal wetlands in NDCs with an integrated vision of Adaptation-Mitigation. Their commitments, which are currently under public consultation, are the following:

#1 Developing a Technical Guide on Climate Change for marine and coastal ecosystems

#2 Setting the baseline to boost ambition, applying Chapter 4 of the IPCC Supplement Guide (2013), to integrated coastal wetlands into the GHG inventories – need to know what we have now, how much was lost in previous years and how much we have emitted because of activities like aquaculture expansion.

  • Working with NDC Partnership to expand the capacity for these commitments and to implement these guides for the next GHG inventory


2. Sharing – Summary of the Dialogue


Question 1 – What is the role of wetlands in your community?

Facilitated by María Elisa Sánchez


Given the diverse background of the participants, this question aimed to explore how wetlands are perceived and valued across different sectors.

  • For people in the conservation sector, wetlands are their subject of care.

  • For people in the academic and scientific sector, wetlands are their subject of research.

  • For people in the urban planning sector, wetlands are what they are looking to protect and create.

  • For some young people, the identification or sense of belonging to a specific sector is still developing. Nevertheless, there is consensus that young people see wetlands as carbon storers, surge and flood mitigators, the controllers of hydrological cycles and the home of rich biodiversity.

  • The ecosystem services wetlands provide are essential for human life and that their role in larger ecosystem functioning is highly important.

  • To achieve proper wetland conservation and protection, all sectors must be working together.

  • The skills that young people have developed in their own fields are and must be seen as assets that build on other youth’s skills to achieve impactful results.


Question 2 – What are the key enablers and leverage points that can help integrate wetlands into climate action?

Facilitated by Gina LOVETT


From the discussion, three main themes arose highlighting the importance of filling knowledge gaps, raising awareness of wetland values and the role of wetlands in climate action as well as strengthening governance.

Theme 1 Filling the knowledge gaps

  • Knowledge and science gap in inventories around the world, particularly when the functioning of wetlands are so unique and differing around the world (there’s not a one-size-fits-all. Peru and South America mentioned specifically). Potential role for young people/researchers to focus on these gaps in knowledge?

  • International cooperation can help fill knowledge gaps and international finance can help fund such research

  • Data-driven planning is important => having the evidence base for a particular action on integrating wetlands into climate action. Cases and examples.

Theme 2 Raising awareness of wetland values and their part in climate action

  • Public awareness of wetland ecosystem services and values can help accelerate public support and shift communities’ views of wetlands from being a dumping ground and wasteland to being something they want to keep and protect.

  • Ways to reach the public with research and science of wetlands (e.g. public café talks hosted by a researcher) => could our youth community partner with local events centers/could we organize a TEDX series as part of the Power of Wetlands campaign

  • Schools have a role in formal education and awareness-raising so that wetland communities can play their role in protecting and safeguarding

  • Greater understanding of the role of wetlands as carbon sinks - this isn’t widely known

  • Greater understanding of the role of biodiverse wetlands. The more biodiverse the wetlands, the more benefits that the community has (food, fodder, etc) and the more effective carbon storage/sequestering. Also understanding that biodiversity is a marker of ecosystem health and resilience. E.g. waterbirds and wetlands

  • Changing narrative and identity around practice and industry that is damaging to wetlands e.g. windmills and cheese in Dutch culture. What could be a new narrative?

Theme 3 Governance

  • Strengthening local governance

  • Aligning local and local government agencies around a particular wetland. It has helped get everyone on the same page; harmonizing the bodies has helped improve communications with the national government and has helped get resources for action (mentioned in relation to the Sidio wetland in the Philippines)


Question 3 – What is the role of youth for integrating wetlands in climate action from the local to the global level?

Facilitated by Elise ALLELY-FERME


Participants described the role of youth in multiple ways, illustrating the diverse roles young people can play to help integrate wetlands in climate action at different levels. Young people have the capacity to be connectors, leaders, amplifiers and role models.


Theme 1 – Raising awareness and knowledge transfer

  • Young people have a key role to play in raising awareness of the importance of wetlands in the context of climate change.

  • The participants highlighted youth’s capacity and strength to transfer knowledge to others and to amplify messages that concern them.

  • Education is key as well as always being in a continual process of learning and discovering wetlands.

  • Youth have an important role to play in raising the visibility of wetlands across generations, including demonstrating the economic and cultural values associated to wetlands.

Theme 2 – Youth as connectors

  • As connectors and thanks to communication tools, young people can lead intersectoral discussions, connecting people that would not necessarily get together.

  • Through these connections, youth have opportunities for greater engagement and greater impact.

  • Social media is a tool for young people to generate intergenerational impacts.

  • Young people also have an important role to play connecting with and supporting local communities, sharing academic knowledge and best practices promoting the wise use of wetlands.

  • Acknowledging and respecting traditional knowledge, participants stressed the importance of documenting knowledge and valuing traditional practices around wetlands.

Theme 3 – Action

  • Young people are also greatly inclined to action, playing an important role in advocacy as well as on the ground conservation and restoration fieldwork.

  • Leading by example, as role models, young people can motivate and mobilize others into acting for the integration of wetlands into climate action.

3. Next steps


The Power of Wetlands Campaign is an important opportunity to have our voices heard through different important platforms. Based on the very informative presentations and the inspiring dialogues, one of the useful ways that we, as a new community of young people interested in wetlands and climate action, can contribute to pushing for greater integration of wetlands into climate plans is by preparing an open letter that could help advocates that are working to encourage greater integration of wetlands into climate action.


Are you interested in supporting the drafting team for this Open Letter? We have formed a Drafting Team composed of Power of Wetlands Ambassadors and Youth Engaged in Wetland members to develop this Open Letter. Meeting virtually our objective is to publish the Open Letter in time for World Wetlands Day - 2nd of February 2021. The draft Open Letter will be shared on the 25th of January to gather comments and suggestions from youth around the world until the 29th of January. Please write to youthengagedinwetlands@gmail.com if you are interested in supporting this process!


- This event was organized by Bidhya Sharma (YEW Knowledge and Capacity Building Lead), Elise Allély-Fermé (YEW Network Lead), and Gina Lovett (Head of Advocacy and Communications, Wetlands International) as part of the Power of Wetlands Campaign.