Publié le October 25, 2021

What if a healthy ocean were our best ally against climate change?

© Pixabay

Nausicaá is a signatory with other research institutes and civil society actors of the « Ocean for Climate » declaration initiated by the Ocean & Climate Platform.

This declaration was published in Le Journal du Dimanche on 24 October 2021 in the context of COP26, which will be the COP of « Climate and Nature ». The role of nature in the transition to a resilient and carbon-neutral world will be at the centre of attention: a unique opportunity to highlight the central role of a healthy and productive ocean in mitigating, adapting and becoming resilient to climate change.

The latest findings of the IPCC confirm we are in code red for humanity: the international community is failing to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), the ocean and its ecosystems are in distress, and the most vulnerable communities around the world are already facing existential threats from climate change.

Although the current outlook is bleak, the most important meeting on climate since the Paris Agreement, COP26 ( November 1-12 in Glasgow), is just around the corner. This COP should be a real game changer for global political ambition to finally match the urgency of the situation.

In this challenge, a healthy and productive ocean is a vital asset to achieve a resilient, nature-positive and net-zero future. This is the stance taken by the High Level Climate Champions and the ocean community in signing the Ocean for Climate Declaration: a call to governments and non-state actors to scale up ocean-based climate solutions and action.

Imagine, in 2050, the scaling up of ocean-based climate solutions has contributed to reduce our CO2 emissions and limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Ongoing efforts to protect and restore blue carbon ecosystems (mangrove forests, sea grass meadows and saltwater marshes) have maintained their role in absorbing CO2. Ocean-based industries underwent a radical transformation: the shipping sector has made a successful zero carbon transition, the aquatic food industry adopted sustainable and climate-proof practices and energy companies are finally tapping the potential of the ocean renewable energy. We have succeeded in the race for zero emissions and slowed the pace of ocean warming and its consequences. The development of a sustainable and equitable ocean economy has contributed to employment growth, as well as global food and energy security.

Imagine, in 2050, holistic and sustainable ocean management has enabled ocean production and protection to go hand-in-hand.

The ocean is 100% sustainably managed, and one-third of its surface is effectively protected, which has rendered the ocean and its biodiversity much healthier and more resilient than before. The ocean still houses an abundance of marine life that supports the livelihoods and food security of billions of people. Effective conservation actions have preserved the potential of coastal ecosystems in helping to reduce the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, ensuring the safety of many human communities.

Imagine, in 2050, a vibrant and equitable ocean-finance system has preserved vital ecosystems, assisted in their recovery and built the resilience of the most vulnerable populations.

The financial policy and regulatory frameworks have been reshaped to support investments in marine and coastal ecosystem protection. Financial flows have been rechannelled from harmful activities to the development of ocean-based climate solutions. Science is receiving increasing financial support, giving it all the leverage it needs to guide global finance towards sustainable and innovative investments.

We have achieved a “just transition” and climate justice for all, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable people, including people in Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The burdens of climate change and the benefits of a protected ocean are shared equitably and fairly, creating shared opportunities for the future.

It is the year 2050 and to the naked eye, the ocean looks much the same as it did three decades ago. Where none seemed possible, the international community took action by choosing to make the ocean an ally. 

This is the scenario that the ocean community and the Climate Champions want to believe and see at work for COP26: for the sake of the ocean, the climate, and all of us who depend on it.

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