Participants of the Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue 2023 held during the Bonn Climate Conference in June 2023 underscored the crucial importance of action to protect the ocean and highlighted the need for the ocean to feature prominently in all relevant aspects of the UN Climate Change process.
The June Ocean Dialogue coincided with preparations for the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference COP28 in the United Arab Emirates at the end of the year, where the outcomes of the global stocktake will be a key focus, along with other ways to increase ambition on climate change.
At the start of the Ocean Dialogue, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell reminded participants of the latest report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which points to the substantial damage and increasingly irreversible losses to ocean ecosystems from climate change, and the implications for food security.
“The ocean holds the key to an equitable and sustainable planet. The ocean has fed and sustained us for centuries. We cannot continue to pollute and plunder it without regard to consequences. There is still an opportunity to shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green and blue, healthy, safe, and just – for all people, especially in the most remote and vulnerable parts of the world,” he said.
Focus on coastal ecosystems and fisheries
The 2023 June Ocean Dialogue focused on how to step up action to build resilience to climate change and to cut emissions within the ocean-climate nexus.
It focused specifically on two topics: coastal ecosystem restoration and blue carbon ecosystems, which include fisheries and food security.
Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans signal government priorities and help channel financing for restoration actions, as well as strengthening the integration of coastal ecosystems in ongoing processes under the UNFCCC.
Experts meeting at the Dialogue looked at a wide range of climate action projects and programmes already underway. For example:
- In Cabo Verde, a strategic partnership between the Cabo Verde Stock Exchange (Bolsa de Valores de Cabo Verde – BVC) and the UN Development Programme under Cabo Verde’s integrated national financing framework (INFF) has already led to four sustainable bond issuances totalling $32.5 million. As a result of the Blu X sustainable finance platform, entities in Cabo Verde and Africa are now using the profits to provide loans to small-scale fisheries projects or small-scale entrepreneurs.
- In Palau, the national government is striving to balance needs of the local community and the environment when it comes to aquaculture, which is seen as an alternative to reducing pressures on fish stocks that are disappearing or relocating to other areas because of climate change. Following examples from other countries, Palau developed aquaculture with not only fish, but also clams and sea cucumbers which filter seawater. In Palau, communities are involved in mangrove restoration to lessen the impact of aquaculture and the country is looking at alternatives to fish feed, such as coconut feed, after finding it impacted water’s quality.
- Singapore is fostering cross-sectoral synergies by integrating aquatic food production into various realms of government work such as nutrition and public health strategies. The Singapore national target, known as “30 by 30”, aims to meet 30% of nutritional needs locally through sustainable food production by 2030, with a significant emphasis on aquatic food’s role in attaining this objective
Tiana Carter, Co-Chair of Facilitative Working Group of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) explained that the international community can learn from Indigenous Peoples’ approach based on multi-generational observation and adaptation, which provides a profound understanding of ecosystems.
She gave an example from her country: Māori, the Indigenous People of Aotearoa New Zealand have a customary practice called rāhui that restricts people from gathering food or accessing an area. Rāhui can be used for conservation purposes, and is a proven way of protecting mahinga kai, or traditional food resources that Māori have a deep and intrinsic connection to, and restoring the mauri (life force) and hauora (health) of an area.
International awareness about the ocean is on the rise
Awareness of the need for ocean-based climate action is increasing momentum globally. This is reflected most recently in the adoption of the “high seas treaty”, formally called the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).
Participants of the 2023 Ocean Dialogue recognised that UNFCCC processes must meet the COP26 mandate to include ocean-based action across all work under the Convention, whilst all Parties agreed at COP27 to include ocean-based action in their national goals and implementation of those goals under the Convention and Paris Agreement.