Ocean Issues Are At The Forefront Of The Global Climate Action Summit

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Aerial photography of buildings in Alicante, SpainArtem Sapegin on Unsplash

The Ocean-Climate Agenda debuted at the ongoing Global Climate Action Summit earlier today, with a focus on the role oceans play in adapting to and mitigating the consequences of climate change.

“We need a safe ocean for economic reasons, cultural reasons, and for our children to have a place to grow up in and thrive in,” said Mark Magaña, founding president and CEO of GreenLatinos.

By absorbing  30% of the carbon dioxide that humans produce each year and over 90% of human-generated heat, the world’s oceans have demonstrated their irreplaceable capacity for buffering the effects of climate change. The oceans also support and propel the global economy, with ocean- and coast-related activities, industries, services, and products worth an approximate annual value of $2.5 trillion. Not only does 40% of the world rely on seafood for protein, but 50% of the world’s population is expected to live within 60 miles of a coastline by 2030.

“Ambitious actions on climate change have to go with ambitious actions on the ocean,” says Taholo Kami, Special Representative for the Ocean Pathway for the COP23 Presidency Secretariat.

The oceans are not a source of greenhouse gas emissions and were therefore largely excluded from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. However, at the December 2015 conference, 22 nations became signatories to the ‘Because the Ocean’ Declaration, which strived to increase ocean resilience and combat the effects of climate change. From this intergovernmental declaration and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (one of which is to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”) arose the Summit’s Ocean-Climate Agenda, which establishes eight goals that must be achieved between the years 2025 and 2030:

Goals For Immediate Adaption and Mitigation

  1. Increasing the area of coastal habitats capable of carbon sequestration, such as mangrove forests by 20%.
  2. Curbing the greenhouse gas emissions of ocean-related industries.
  3. Preparing coastal and island nations for the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification (especially “frontline” communities that are already experiencing them).
  4. Cordoning off 30% of the oceans for the purposes of food security, fortification against sea level rise, and the preservation of biodiversity.
  5. Engaging in specific actions that ensure the development and maintenance of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture operation.

Goals For Future Adaption and Mitigation

  1. Coastal and island members of the Paris Climate Agreement will modify their commitments to include concrete strategies for adaptation and actively share their progress with other vulnerable communities.
  2. Coastal and island members of the Paris Climate Agreement will acquire capital to finance local climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.
  3. High precision instruments will be strategically used to monitor climate change, ocean acidification, and the natural marine resources that humans rely upon.

Voreqe Bainimarama, Fiji’s prime minister, speaks during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. The event brings together industry and political leaders working on improving the conditions and concerns facing climate in the world today. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Despite the many collaborative efforts underway to integrate the oceans into climate change action items, the novelty of the Ocean-Climate Agenda presented at the Summit is the participation of “non-party stakeholders/non-state actors”, including non-governmental organizations and businesses that may be able to provide market- and technology-based solutions (such as Revocean, the Benioff Ocean Initiative, and the Ocean Solutions Accelerator).

“We are all in the same canoe – climate change affects all of us,” says Inia Seruiratu, the Fijian Minister for Agriculture, Rural & Maritime Development, and National Disaster Management, ”It is time that we bring everybody in through these partnerships.”

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