Updated climate plans for COP27 need to make better use of the ocean

Dive Deeper

What’s happening? The Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed at COP26, recognises the ocean under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and backs an annual dialogue on strengthening ocean-based action to take place in the summers before COP summits, starting in 2022. Small island state representatives at COP26 stated they would like to see further action and the COP process get “consistently bluer”. Others argued that too much had been pledged on forests and that more needed to be committed to ocean climate finance.

Why does this matter? Alongside the official recognition of ocean-based climate action as part of the Glasgow Climate Pact, COP26 saw a host of separate ocean-based initiatives launched by public and private-sector entities. However, in order to limit the effects climate change will have on the ocean, and for the ocean itself to play an effective role in mitigating climate change, action – public, private and from coalitions – needs to be enhanced.

COP25 saw talk about the importance of creating a dialogue on the ocean and climate change, in addition to the launch of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. COP26, however, had even more of a blue focus. The summit’s fifth day was dedicated to oceans, calling for action to protect and restore their health and resilience.

A long list of ocean-positive initiatives were announced on “Ocean Action Day”, including:

  • the Clydebank Declaration, made between 19 countries to accelerate moves towards net-zero shipping through low-carbon fuels and associated infrastructure;

  • Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama pledging to connect their marine protected areas to create one of the world’s richest areas of biodiversity – the Eastern Tropical Marine Corridor;

  • the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) announcing a multi-million dollar investment to accelerate coastal and marine environment financing;

  • Convex announced a multi-million dollar science project with the Blue Marine Foundation and Exeter University to quantify the carbon stored globally on the seabed;

  • the UK government’s announcement of £400,000 ($532,760) to support Fiji in issuing its first blue bond;

  • the Great Blue Wall initiative, which establishes a network of marine and coastal conservation areas to protect and develop carbon sinks, including mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass, through involving local communities; and

  • the progression of the “30by30” target to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030.

It’s important to note that ocean solutions can also play an important role in country climate pledges made under the COP process, otherwise known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). As of November this year, 54 NDCs contained at least one ocean-focused action, and at COP26 the Seychelles revised its NDC to specifically include the blue economy and coastal adaptation – with it pledging to protect 100% of mangrove and seagrass by 2030.

However, there is further untapped potential for ocean-based solutions in NDCs. The Marine Conservation Society and Rewilding Britain have pointed out that ocean-focused climate initiatives are vital, for example, for the UK to achieve its 2050 net-zero emissions target.

Globally, it’s been estimated that ocean climate solutions can close the 1.5C “emissions gap” – i.e. the difference between emissions projections under current climate policies and a 1.5C-friendly pathway – by 21%. To help close the gap, measures can be taken to safeguard blue carbon ecosystems; to target and reduce emissions from fisheries and aquaculture; to expand the provision of offshore renewable energy; and to work to further cut emissions from shipping.

Now that countries have agreed to revise and come back with stronger NDCs at COP27 in Egypt, this marks a perfect opportunity for such solutions to be factored in and for the oceans to fulfil their true potential in helping countries cut their carbon footprints.

Source: China Dialogue Ocean