The ocean is rising on the international climate policy agenda and the dialogues around it — 51 national plans include at least one measure aimed at ocean-based mitigation, compared to just 31 in the first round of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — but will this translate into commitments to act? One clear change is countries’ recognition that the ocean is not merely a victim of climate change, but an important part of the solution.

New analysis from World Resources Institute has found that 77 out of 106 new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — from island and coastal states include at least one ocean-climate action.

This comes at a critical time as the world remains set for a disastrous 4.8 degrees Fahrenheit temperature rise by the end of the century, based on current climate pledges. To see significant change, we need an integrated approach that calls for increased ambition across all carbon sources and sinks, including proper accounting of the ocean’s contributions, as called for by the IPCC 6th Assessment Report, particularly through reducing GHG emissions using marine renewable energy, decarbonizing maritime transport and sequestering emissions in the ocean.

The ocean is already key to regulating the global climate, absorbing about 25 percent of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere, but the ocean economy and ocean ecosystems can play an additional crucial role in further driving down emissions. Research commissioned by the Ocean Panel shows that sustainable ocean-based climate actions can deliver up to 21 percent of the annual GHG emission cuts needed by 2050 to limit global temperature rise to 2.7F.

To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, governments must accelerate implementation of these ocean-based climate solutions and continue to raise ambition to put the world on track to limit GHG emissions.

WRI’s new analysis unpacks how ocean-based climate solutions have been included in new or updated NDCs and long-term low GHG emission development strategies (LTS), looking at ocean-based renewable energy, "blue food" derived from fisheries and aquaculture, coastal and marine ecosystems, maritime transport, coastal and marine tourism, and coastal zone management.

  1. Use targets for ocean-based renewable energy to provide clear policy signals for private sector investment.
  2. Encourage efforts to decarbonize marine transport through establishing domestic targets and enabling frameworks for zero-emission fuels and green corridors.
  3. Use coastal and marine tourism to cut emissions.
  4. Invest in sustainable, low carbon 'blue food' for the future.
  5. Ensure protection and restoration of all blue carbon ecosystems.
  6. Improve access to sources of finance to accelerate ocean-based actions.
  7. Leverage ocean-based climate actions to advance gender and social equity in national climate strategies using a rights-based approach to support vulnerable communities.

Read the full article about ocean-based climate strategies by Micheline Khan & Eliza Northrop at GreenBiz.