Oceans Action Day at COP 25 reaffirms importance of Ocean-climate nexus

Erik Lukas

Oceans Action Day took place during the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, to assess existing ocean and climate action, identify gaps that need to be addressed and reaffirm the importance of the ocean-climate nexus.

The event convened on 7 December and was hosted by the Governments of Japan, Chile and the UK. The Day featured a number of high-level panel sessions.

During the discussion on the ocean and climate nexus within the UNFCCC and beyond, panelists highlighted, inter alia:

  • the ocean as integral to achieving multiple SDGs;
  • nature-based solutions such as the International Blue Carbon Initiative, which focuses on mitigation through blue carbon restoration, and the Blue Action Fund, established by Sweden, France and Germany, that will support investment in nature-based solutions;
  • the Commonwealth Blue Charter, which puts the ocean and island nations at the center of climate solutions;
  • the need for integrated approaches on the effects of land-based activities on the marine environment;
  • the importance of a common narrative encompassing the needs of all ocean-dependent people; and
  • the need for a “blue outcome” at the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the UNFCCC.

During the session on incorporating ocean-related options into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), panelists, inter alia: noted that industrialized countries do not mention the ocean in their initial NDCs; expressed hope that 2020 NDCs will contain nature-based solutions; urged policymakers to pay greater attention to the ocean-climate nexus in the high seas, which comprise 60% of the ocean; discussed the ways in which marine protected areas (MPAs) can contribute to mitigation and adaptation and create barriers to sea level rise; and urged countries to include ecosystems in national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories. They noted that, unabated, climate change will cause over a 90% loss of the current USD 36 billion revenue from coral reefs, and called for full decarbonization of the shipping industry by 2050 through, for example, combining wind energy and reduced ship speeds.

During the panel on ocean science to action for adaptation and displacement solutions, participants stated that island land tenure systems can exacerbate or ameliorate challenges related to internal relocations. They highlighted opportunities for strengthening adaptation measures through the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), and noted that about 22 million people have been displaced by climate disasters. Participants further underscored the need for an integrated risk management approach to bridge the climate-disaster divide.

The session on galvanizing support for the ocean and climate action discussed pre-2020 climate action and raising ambition to achieve the Paris Agreement goals on the ocean and coastal zones. Speakers stressed the need to “break down the silos” between the ocean, biodiversity and climate, and announced new Global Environment Facility (GEF) project funding aimed at strengthening MPAs to address carbon sequestration, biodiversity and fisheries.

Panelists also:

  • discussed work towards carbon neutrality in the Nordic region, including through carbon capture and storage (CCS);
  • reiterated calls for a UNFCCC workshop on the climate-ocean nexus in 2020;
  • reported on preparations for the 2020 UN Ocean Conference, to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, from 2-6 June; and
  • noted the need for philanthropic and private capital to address challenges in the ocean-climate nexus.

The event was organized by, among others: the Global Ocean Forum; the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO); the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO); Because the Ocean Initiative; the Ocean and Climate Platform; and the Oceano Azul Foundation (Portugal). The event was held in collaboration with the Governments of Chile, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Sweden, the UK and the EU.

This was the eighth ocean thematic day held since COP 15 in 2015. Ocean Days focus on promoting the ocean agenda at COPs and on developing cooperation and coherence in policies and programmes at multiple levels to implement a comprehensive strategy on the ocean and climate, both within and outside the UNFCCC process.

Source IISD website.

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