The secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Tuesday, January 25, 2022 launched new webpages on the ocean in response to a decision by governments at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow last November.
The ocean is considered as a fundamental part of the climate system and the global response to climate change. At COP26, the ocean also became a fundamental part of the outcomes of the conference in the Glasgow Climate Pact.
Governments recognised the need for a cross-cutting incorporation of the ocean under the work of all relevant constituted bodies and workstreams, as well as an annual dialogue on the ocean and climate change. The new webpages are a first response to these mandates, according to the UNFCCC.
The global ocean covers 71% of the planet’s surface. It has absorbed about 90% of the heat generated by rising greenhouse gas emissions trapped in the Earth’s system and about 25% of carbon emissions, limiting the effects of excess heat and carbon in the atmosphere. However, this has had devastating impacts, increasing the risks for ocean and coastal life and coastal communities’ lives and livelihoods.
The ocean also provides multiple untapped and powerful opportunities to both reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change and adapt to its effects, provided environmental and social safeguards are met.
For example, ocean-based renewable energy, ocean transport emissions reductions and blue carbon can reduce future emissions and remove a portion of already emitted greenhouse gases. In addition, the protection and restoration of coastal ecosystems enables local adaptation to extreme weather and sea level rise while protecting biodiversity.
In addition to providing a hub to spotlight the mandates on the ocean, the new webpages also link to ocean science, including the Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue; information under the research and systematic observation agenda item and the IPCC; the Nairobi Work Programme focus area on Oceans, Coastal Areas and Ecosystems; the Technology Executive Committee work on coastal zones; and the Ocean and Coastal Zones pathway of the Marrakech Partnership. The UNFCCC secretariat will continue to support and expand engagement on the ocean moving forward.
The ocean on the horizon
The Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue, held for the first time in December 2020, will now be held annually from June of this year. The Dialogue brings together state and non-state actors, including civil society, NGOs and scientists, to discuss how to strengthen climate change adaptation and mitigation action on the ocean. The Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) will announce a call for submissions on possible topics for the dialogue.
Ocean action under the UNFCCC will become increasingly visible as the relevant work bodies report on ocean action undertaken through their activities, and this will be reflected on the ocean action webpages. The ocean is already mentioned in over 70% of countries’ National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and more than 50% of countries include the ocean or coastal zones in their new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Meanwhile, global collaboration on ocean science is accelerated via the UN Decade on Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The Decade aims to identify transformative ocean science solutions for sustainable development that connect people and the ocean.
The upcoming UN Ocean Conference, from June 27 to July 1, 2022, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, will also provide an opportunity to break down the siloes between ocean and climate decision making and propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at global ocean and climate action.