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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Bonn Dialogue urges ocean-based climate action

“I invite all to do their utmost to strengthen ocean-climate action and its finance and that these commitments are included in national climate action plans and communicated to the UNFCCC directly.”

Peter Thomson
Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean

This was the ask from Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, on the opening of the first mandated ocean and climate change dialogue under the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

On the front line of climate change, the ocean, coastlines and coastal communities are being disproportionately impacted by increasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. To tackle this, governments at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 set in place an annual dialogue to strengthen ocean and climate change action.

The first Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue took place during the June Bonn Climate Change Conference which held from June 6 to 16, 2022. The dialogue highlighted the vital importance of the ocean to livelihoods and biodiversity and as a fundamental component of the climate system, while highlighting the need for greater ocean-related climate action.

Covering 71% of the surface of our blue planet, the ocean has for decades been undergoing dramatic and unprecedented changes due to human caused climate change, resulting in ocean warming, acidification, loss of oxygen, damage to ecosystems and sea level rise. All of this has affected the lives and livelihoods of millions around the world, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.

Speaking at the opening of the Dialogue, Espinosa emphasised the role of the ocean in addressing climate change: “Despite all the damage humankind has done to it, the ocean still offers enormous potential, not just for its own recovery, but for climate mitigation and adaptation.”

The Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue is intended to act as a yearly stepping stone to greater ambition and action for ocean-climate action at national and international level – an imperative according to the UN.

During the 2022 dialogue, panelists, participants online and in person discussed a range of ocean-based solutions from renewable energy, to fisheries, to protecting biodiversity and how to enable these solutions. Video interludes presented some of the critical linkages and considerations for ocean-based climate action, including the sequestration capacity of blue carbon ecosystems and the knowledge of coastal indigenous communities. 

Ms. Espinosa said: “The health of the ocean and humankind are so deeply intertwined that we ignore the connection at our peril.”

Part of the solutions needed for mitigation lie in ocean-based action, including scaling up offshore renewable energy; reduction of emissions from shipping and ports; and development of the sustainable blue economy.

Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the ocean, explained how well designed, nature-based solutions are cost-effective solutions that can be included in climate action policy and financing, from the mitigation benefits of seagrass to the coastal protection value of coral reefs and mangroves.

He also underlined the carbon sequestration and storage capacity of oceans and their role in helping coastal populations adapt to a changing climate, saying: “The protection, restoration and conservation of these vital ecosystems represents an indispensable ocean-based climate solution for our achievement of emission reduction plans, as well as in building resilience in line with the Paris Agreement.”

The Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue took place ahead of the  UN Ocean Conference taking place from June 27 to July 1, 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal, which will seek to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.

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