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Frontlines Summit Bermuda: Outlines for Climate Action

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10th Jul 2023

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The frontlines of climate change are everywhere and cover a myriad of situations. From this summer’s devastating Canadian wildfires to European rivers running dry, nature is showing humanity everything is connected.

In many ways, all roads lead back to the oceans. Frontline coastal communities are expected to bear the brunt of climate related problems as sea levels rise, coastal marshes face salination, and increased intensity of storms from a warming ocean make their way across coastal areas. Because of carbon dioxide emissions the oceans are also experiencing a drop in pH values, making them more acidic as the seas absorb carbon dioxide and other contaminants pumped into the air. Over time the acidification cycle decreases habitability for phytoplankton and oxygen producing plants, even putting the planet’s oxygen conveyor at risk.

With all of these issues and more on the agenda, the Hub Culture Frontlines Summit convened in Bermuda on June 28th to share scientific and entrepreneurial knowledge in an attempt to close some knowledge gaps around how to proceed with action on these  topics. The event was produced on the heels of the Bermuda Climate Summit, part of Bermuda Climate Week, which gathered hundreds of industry experts, scientists, activists and businesses to work on aspects of the climate change equation - diving into risk, reinsurance, mitigation and more.

With so many experts on hand, Frontlines participants took knowledge gained and applied it to six key topic areas relevant to ocean frontline communities: ocean health, ocean biodiversity, carbon finance, carbon linked digital assets, giving nature a voice, and shoreline protection. Hosted with Competent Boards, Penrose Partners, Bermuda Asset Management, the Earth Law Center and the Bermuda Business Development Agency, some surprising conclusions emerged from the dire state of affairs today, landing on the opportunity to solve, at scale, some of the problems the world faces.

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Ocean Health

Situated in the middle of the Atlantic with close access to deep water, Bermuda is one of the best places in the world to study general ocean health. Through BIOS, the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, (which recently became part of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU, a leading center of futurism innovation), Bermuda has access to over a century of scientifically produced ocean related data. As William B Curry, PhD outlined, this data shows sustained warming of the water (by 1-2 degrees) and increased acidity, which has sustained results on everything from storm intensity to algae blooms around the planet.

As a 'blue state’ Bermuda and other island states have responsibility for over 25% of the Atlantic, which points the way to the importance of regional collaboration on protecting the Atlantic. Karla Lacey, CEO of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, venue host for the event, pointed to education programs and engagement with all citizens to highlight the importance of ocean protection, and the urgent need for comprenhensive ocean education classes in Bermuda and other island states public schools - a situation later covered in a discussion on the potential for digital assets and credentials around ocean protection.

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Ocean Biodiversity

Speaking for himself, Choy Aming of the Bermuda Aquarium dove into the impacts of biodiversity loss on local ecosystems, communities and human livelihoods. In some places around the planet over 95% of fish species have been wiped out, which causes massive ecosystem inbalances - from jellyfish blooms in the Mediterranean to the loss of fish nurseries in seagrass beds disappearing in warming waters. From coral bleaching and loss to fish overharvesting to shark degradation, the abilty for the ocean to ever fully recover to where it was even 20 years ago looks bleak.

One bright spot is the growing recognition of data to identify the most important ocean based biodiversity hot spots to limit or eliminate fishing and exploitation. By doing so, these zones can act as nurseries, helping to replenish outside areas more quickly. The ways we harvest fish - for instance by targeting invasive species like lionfish, also can make a positive difference. Regardless, the current global system is consuming and destroying biodiversity at a rate that will lead to extinction of most ocean based biodiversity populations over the long run.

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Carbon Finance

The carbon finance conversation centered on a group question of utmost importance: what is a blue bond, and how can we create one to help fund Frontline priorities on climate? Zeroing in on this subject created one of the day’s most impactful outcomes - educating everyone on what a blue bond is, and collectively realizing that micro blue bond projects need to happen first to pave the way for larger scale projects down the road. A seachange starts with a step change.

Not only can blue bonds be public, private, or public-private, they can be crowd funded or tap into large institutional capital. The key is the development and sustainability of presentatble and financeable projects that drive real-world benefits, provide transparency, and can actually create tangible outcomes.

Bermuda Asset Management and others are working on ideas with the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Program to bring blue bonds to fruition for the emerging global carbon markets.  Bermuda should play a role as an incubator of blue bonds, serving as a platform and standards repository for projects everywhere.

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Carbon Linked Digital Assets

Already a leader in digital assets, Bermuda stands to become a global leader in bioversity and carbon linked digital assets delivering capital to environmental protection while ensuring transparency and investor protections. Chance Barnett, Founder of Jewel Bank, covered how stablecoins and digital products linked to climate action can create funding for on-the-ground work, while Kerem Kocuoglu of Penrose Partners, a crypto consulting agency, talked about the importance of regulatory frameworks for digital identity and other emerging fields to enable new projects to lift off in Bermuda.

Micro projects and testbeds with the local insurance community can also provide data and risk insights over the long term. With some work on standards, Bermuda can even become an anchor point for global blue bond initiatives.

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Nature in the Boardroom

In January 2023 Hub Culture announced a strategy to include nature, specifically in the form of the Atlantic Ocean, in its board of directors through a proxy system of board governance. The replacement of the board with nature and the subsequent introduction of advocates to educate the proxy members sets forth a template for other companies to also bring nature into their boardrooms.

Working with the Earth Law Center and Competent Boards, frameworks and criterion for scaling inclusion of nature into a board, voting systems and governance mechanisms can provide the scaffolding for real action in this area. Nancy Wright, of Competent Boards, shared work the organization has done to introduce biodiversity and nature backed influences to their education programmes, while Alexandra Pimor of the Earth Law Center shared three major pathways companies can follow for legal representation of nature in the board room.

Hub Culture’s proxy strategy fits within existing Bermuda law, but also paves the way for thinking on deeper integration of nature based solutions into corporate governance, which government stakeholders are looking at.

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Shoreline Protection

Over 60% of the planet’s population lives within 100 Km of a shoreline, making sea-level rise and coastal protection an imporant issue to address. Blayne Ross, of Shorelock, showcased organic technologies his company has used to restore and grow beaches and sand banks in the Caribbean and United States. Properly treated, coastal systems can use tidal action to help grow shorelines and provide added protection against storm surge and singular weather events.

Additionally, mangrove and seagrass systems provide crucial shoreline protections and can reduce flooding enormously during singular events. Places like Belize are working to protect and grow mangroves, and need new funding to develop protection reserves and nurseries.

By linking financial innovation to clilmate protection strategies, measuring ocean health and actively working to protect biodiversity, a fuzzy pathway emerged for Frontlines action, with Bermuda having an opportunity to seize the leadership position in solving these issues. As a testbed, the country is perfectly positioned to develop blue bond infrastructure, to build data warehouses and resources to fight ocean ignorance, can create coral restoration projects, and can be a testing ground for tidal energy, deep ocean research, biodiversity incubation nurseries, digital education programmes, and much more.

Working together with the ocean at the center of the mindset also greatly increases Bermuda’s relative footprint in the world. As an oceanic leader, a climate frontlines leader, and a steward of island state innovation, leadership on the blue economy is possible.

To get to work on the solutions, share data and develop collaboration teams, Hub Culture is deploying Hub collaboration systems, Coalitions, and Propel governance to help develop on the ground blue bond and blue carbon initiatives in Bermuda, with progress reviews set for COP28 in Dubai. To participate visit the Frontlines Hub on HubCulture.com