The urgency of ocean-centric restoration actions in addressing climate change is underscored by the 2023 Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue Informal summary report published on September 14, 2023 by United Nations Climate Change (UNCC).
Over 250 case studies submitted by Parties and stakeholders show that the ocean offers opportunities for positive climate solutions, with recommendations calling for quantifiable ocean-based targets to be included in NDCs, options for ocean-related finance to be explored, and aquatic food to be covered in agriculture and food security discussions.
The 2023 Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue took place in conjunction with the 58th session of the subsidiary bodies and focused on coastal ecosystem restoration, including blue carbon, fisheries and food security. The Informal report presents a summary of the discussions and was prepared by the dialogue co-facilitators Niall O’Dea (Canada) and Julio Cordano (Chile).
“Despite all the harm it has endured, the ocean still offers enormous potential, not just for its own recovery, but for holistic climate mitigation and adaptation measures. The 2023 Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue brought together a rich community of 250 ocean experts, from Parties and observer organizations, to engage on strengthening ocean-climate action at national level and under the UNFCCC process,” said Cordano.
O’Dea added: “The Paris Agreement emphasizes the interconnectedness of the Earth’s systems as encompassing the ocean, atmosphere, land, nature and humankind. Our globally shared ocean presents vital opportunities for fostering ambitious climate action.”
The report highlights the need for Parties to commit to mainstreaming ocean-based actions into national commitments, as momentum grows to recognize the potential of ocean-based climate change solutions.
The Informal summary report comes just months after the 2023 IPCC Climate Change Synthesis report noted that climate change has already altered ocean ecosystems and caused related loss and damage worldwide. But the ocean is also widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest allies against climate change.
The Informal summary report highlights the importance of strengthening ocean-focused research and data management, bridging knowledge gaps and promoting standardized data sharing to effectively integrate the ocean into climate commitments.
It points out that collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, local communities, vulnerable groups, youth, women and the private sector is essential to address policy barriers, facilitate investments and promote effective conservation efforts.
Stable and accessible finance flows and capacity-building are also identified as key elements to foster sustainable fishing practices and coastal ecosystem restoration and management, especially in developing countries.
The report stresses that it’s crucial for countries to incorporate ocean-related mandates from the UN Climate Change Conferences COP26 and COP27 into their national climate objectives and UNFCCC processes, including global stocktake political outcomes, and to better streamline national focus areas with other international conventions and agreements, such as the ‘Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction’ treaty.
The first global stocktake (GST) – a mandated assessment of global progress in implementing the Paris Agreement – presents a unique opportunity to emphasize the ocean’s role in combating climate change, encouraging guidelines to integrate ocean-based measures into updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans and national strategies under the Paris Agreement.
Since COP25, Ocean and Climate Change Dialogues – now mandated to take place annually – have integrated ocean-based climate action in all relevant aspects of the UNFCCC process, in parallel to growing pressure from scientists, practitioners, Party representatives, High Level Champions and the wider ocean community to integrate ocean-based climate solutions into national climate policies and strategies. Around 40 percent of Parties are already targeting ocean-based climate action in their national plans.
At COP28, the first GST will be an opportunity to highlight the importance of the ocean in the global response to climate change, and to call for the mainstreaming of ocean-related mandates into national climate goals.
Image Credit: UN Climate Change.