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The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action

A healthy ocean is critical to achieving global targets to limit climate change.

Full Report
Summary

Climate change poses stark risks to the health of the ocean and to the realisation of a prosperous and sustainable ocean economy. Acidification and rising ocean temperatures are negatively impacting important industries such as fishing and tourism, as well as the well-being of coastal populations. There is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit further temperature rise.

Although at risk, the ocean is also central to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. To highlight the ocean’s important role as a solution to global climate change, the Ocean Panel commissioned a Special Report, ‘The Ocean as a Solution for Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action’, to underscore that a healthy ocean is critical to achieving global targets to limit climate change, to identify new insights and to inform the report’s call to action.

The report’s publication coincided with the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2019.

Notably, the research found that ocean-based climate action can play a much bigger role in shrinking the world’s carbon footprint than was previously thought, and it could deliver up to one-fifth (21 percent, or 11 GtCO2e) of the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emission cuts needed in 2050 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

The report was subjected to a rigorous peer review process and the arguments, findings and recommendations represent the views of the authors. Ultimately, this report is an independent input to the Ocean Panel process and does not represent the perspectives of the Ocean Panel.

Read more in the authors’ blog, ‘Turning the Tide: Ocean-Based Solutions Could Close Emission Gap by 21%’, in the Ocean Panel Co-chairs’ op-ed ‘‘Look to the ocean for climate change solutions’ and in news coverage via The Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek, among others. A companion piece was also published in Science.

Considering this report and other important climate research, the Ocean Panel launched a ‘Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action’ at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September 2019. Ocean Panel commitments and other stakeholder responses are documented below.

The convening lead author of this paper is Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. The contributing expert authors include Ken Caldeira, Thierry Chopin, Steve Gaines, Peter Haugen, Mark Hemer, Jennifer Howard, Manaswita Konar, Dorte Krause-Jensen, Catherine Lovelock, Elizabeth Lindstad, Mark Michelin, Finn Gunnar Nielsen, Eliza Northrop, Robert W. R. Parker, Joyashree Roy, Tristan Smith, Shreya Some and Peter Tyedmers.

additional attachments
Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action

An urgent Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action by the heads of government who serve as members of the Ocean Panel members to inspire political commitments, business partnerships and investments to scale up and accelerate action in six priority areas to confront the threat of climate change and help meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Press Release
Call to Action
Speech-Indonesia
Speech-Jamaica (MHPM)
Speech-Japan
Speech-Kenya
Speech-Mexico
Speech-Namibia
Norway-Introductory Statement
Norway-Closing Remarks
Background
Areas for Action

Some national governments have already committed to developing new initiatives, partnerships and providing significant funding investments to rapidly accelerate ocean-based climate solutions in line with the 6 action areas below. The indicative commitments made by Ocean Panel members to date are captured below. Note, this list will be further developed to reflect new ideas as they emerge.

Climate Solutions
Renewable Energy
Ocean Industries
Sustainable Food
Carbon Capture and Storage
Ocean Observation and Research
coral
Invest in Nature-Based Climate Solutions

Restore, protect and manage coastal and marine ecosystems, including mangroves, seagrasses, salt marshes, macroalgae and reefs, to enhance their ability to sequester and store carbon, adapt to the effects of climate change, and improve coastal resilience.

commitments
Commitments
Australia
Australia
Fiji
Fiji
Japan
Japan
Kenya
Kenya
Mexico
Mexico
Namibia
Namibia
Norway
Norway
Portugal
Portugal
Next: Renewable Energy Arrow
coral
Harness Ocean-Based Renewable Energy

Scale up offshore and ocean-based renewable energy, including wind, wave, tidal, current and solar, to meet future energy demand and become cost-competitive.

commitments
Commitments
Australia
Australia
Japan
Japan
Namibia
Namibia
Norway
Norway
Portugal
Portugal
Next: Ocean Industries Arrow
coral
Decarbonize Ocean Industries

Invest in the solutions needed to support rapid decarbonization of ocean industries, including shipping and marine transport, port infrastructure and operations, fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.

commitments
Commitments
Australia
Australia
Fiji
Fiji
Japan
Japan
Namibia
Namibia
Norway
Norway
Portugal
Portugal
Next: Sustainable Food Arrow
coral
Secure Sustainable Food for the Future

Promote sustainable, safe, equitable, resilient and low-carbon sources of food from the ocean to feed and improve the nutrition of present and future generations, including mitigating food insecurity.

commitments
Commitments
Australia
Australia
Kenya
Kenya
Namibia
Namibia
Norway
Norway
Portugal
Portugal
Next: Carbon Capture and Storage Arrow
coral
Advance the Deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage

Reduce barriers for carbon capture and storage below the seabed through international collaboration, including mapping the storage potential of the sub-seabed geological formations

commitments
Commitments
Norway
Norway
Portugal
Portugal
Next: Ocean Observation and Research Arrow
coral
Expand Ocean Observation and Research

Scale up support for integrated local-to-global observation and research to better inform decision-makers on the observed and projected impacts of climate change, warming and acidification on the ocean, and the role of the ocean in the global carbon cycle.

commitments
Commitments
Australia
Australia
Japan
Japan
Kenya
Kenya
Namibia
Namibia
Norway
Norway
Portugal
Portugal
Next: Arrow
coral
commitments
Commitments
Next: Climate Solutions Arrow
Responding to the Ocean Panel’s Call to Action

Companies and other organisations are also starting to form coalitions and grow partnerships to advance relevant action, including:

partners
The Pew Charitable Trusts

The Pew Charitable Trusts is launching a 3-year initiative to support countries to incorporate coastal wetlands and coral reefs into their National Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. They will work in partnership with governments, researchers and other NGOs.

“The High Level Panel’s Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action demonstrates the value of protecting coastal wetlands as a nature-based solution, which is integral to the global effort to build resilience and protect our ocean in a changing climate. Coastal habitats are among the planet’s most biologically rich ecosystems. They protect shorelines during storms and are critical for carbon sequestration, making them an important part of mitigation and adaptation efforts for countries that have signed the Paris Agreement.”

– Tom Dillon, Vice President and Head of Environment for The Pew Charitable Trusts

Ørsted and Equinor

Ørsted and Equinor, two companies in the forefront of offshore renewable energy, have announced the creation of a new industry-led coalition to scale up ocean-based renewable energy in support of efforts to achieve the Paris Agreement. The coalition is bringing together leading ocean industry players and will present a roadmap for action at the UN Ocean Conference in June 2020.

“The only way we can combat climate change is by working together to take real action, and on behalf of Ørsted, and Equinor, two of the world-leading offshore wind developers, I am delighted to announce this new coalition for action for offshore renewable energy. The report reveals that ocean renewable energy, and in particular offshore wind energy, has a huge potential to help mitigate climate change, so we are looking forward to bringing industry players together, in response to the High Level Panel’s Call to Ocean-Based Action, to understand how we can take an international perspective to the challenges we will face and coordinate in our action to unlock the full potential of ocean renewable energy to prevent global overheating.”

 – Benj Sykes, Vice President at Orsted and leading on the Coalition for Action for offshore renewable energy

Getting to Zero Coalition

The Getting to Zero Coalition will work with industry towards having commercially viable zero emission vessels operating along deep sea trade routes by 2030, supported by the necessary infrastructure for scalable zero-carbon energy sources including production, distribution, storage and bunkering.

“We support the Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action from the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy and agree that the full phaseout of GHG emissions from shipping will only be possible with the introduction of zero-carbon fuels. Hence, it is our ambition to accelerate the deployment of commercially viable deep-sea zero emission vessels by 2030.”

– Johannah Christensen, Managing Director, Global Maritime Forum, a partner of the Getting to Zero Coalition

The Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) Initiative

The Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) Initiative, representing ten of the largest seafood companies in the world, operating in wild capture fisheries, aquaculture, and feeds, will advance strategies to enhance sustainable fisheries, and investigate mechanisms to adapt to climate change impacts on seafood production. These industry leaders are working to refine science-based strategies for global action, aligned with the High Level Panel’s efforts to accelerate action to secure sustainable food from the ocean.

“The ambition of SeaBOS members is to increase the production of healthy and sustainable seafood, and to improve ocean health overall. The members recognise the positive benefits that eating more sustainably produced seafood can have at lowering the global food carbon footprint, as called for by the High Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, and also note that it would have positive social and ecological impacts to have a healthier ocean. These efforts will help shine a light on the science-based solutions that industry will need to prioritise to increase sustainable seafood production, improve ocean health. Combined, those actions will assist in reducing the overall carbon footprint of protein production and food sources globally.”

– Mr Shigeru Ito, Chairman SeaBOS, also CEO and President Maruha Nichiro Corporation

The Chilean Salmon Aquaculture Association (SalmonChile AG)

The Chilean Salmon Aquaculture Association (SalmonChile AG) has called for an industry-wide initiative aimed at reducing by 50% the use of antibiotics by the year 2025 and monitored by the prestigious Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.

The Chilean National Society of Fisheries (SONAPESCA

The Chilean National Society of Fisheries (SONAPESCA) has called for a sustainability certification of the largest Chilean fishery, the Jack-Mackerel, under the strict standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), with the view of making it the largest certified fishery in Latin America.

The Chilean Salmon Aquaculture Association (SalmonChile AG)

The Chilean Salmon Aquaculture Association (SalmonChile AG) has highlighted the objective of reaching 50% carbon neutrality by 2020 and 100% by 2025 of its member company “Salmones Camanchaca”, setting an example of leadership for other companies to follow.

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