A New Era of Ocean-Climate Action


As National Ocean Month draws to a close, we need to acknowledge the greatest environmental threat our ocean and planet face: climate change. Climate change is already wreaking havoc on our ocean. Ocean ecosystems and wildlife are struggling as waters warm and become more acidic, while sea-level rise and extreme weather events are damaging and displacing coastal and island communities around the world.

The coming year is a critical moment to get the fight against climate change back on track.

On the international stage, it is a make-or-break moment for the Paris Agreement, which is the guiding pact for countries to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and build resilience to the effects of climate change. In advance of the next U.N. climate summit—which has been postponed a full year given the coronavirus—world leaders must keep up the momentum by coming forward with more ambitious national climate goals and pursuing an economic recovery that secures a sustainable future for people and the planet.

Meanwhile, in the United States, we are coming to terms with years of environmental rollbacks that have unraveled progress on climate change and put the health of our ocean and communities at risk. In addition, we are facing an ever-diminishing amount of time to transition the country to a clean economy and achieve a just and equitable future for all Americans, especially those in underserved and underrepresented communities that historically have been at the front lines of climate impacts and pollution.

For the sake of our communities, economies and planet, we need to bring everything we have to confront the climate crisis, including the power of the ocean. For too long, the ocean conservation efforts and climate efforts have remained separate.

Bringing the power of the ocean to climate action means several things.

First, it means bringing the power of people. Ocean advocates, from major economies to individual ocean lovers, must put their weight behind the suite of sustainable climate policies that are necessary to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas pollution no later than 2050 and limit global warming within 1.5°C over pre-industrial temperatures. These include not only economywide measures but also, because there is no one silver bullet for climate change, policies to decarbonize sectors from transportation and agriculture to buildings and electricity.

Second, it means bringing the power of ocean solutions. We cannot afford to leave any sustainable climate measures on the table, including ocean-based solutions from protecting and restoring blue carbon ecosystems and creating climate-smart marine protected areas to reducing emissions from ports and increasing well-sited offshore renewable energy. The ocean is a source of all of these solutions and more—and they all have a role to play in limiting climate change and adapting to the climate impacts that are here today.

Ocean Conservancy is therefore kicking off a discussion series on the ocean-climate nexus. This week we will release a first set of papers that provide in-depth analyses of some of the most pressing issues and solutions related to ocean-climate action. We also are working with state and national governments as well as international leaders to advance ocean-climate solutions while also increasing climate ambition overall.

But none of this work can be done in isolation from the rest of society. We are committed to ensuring that all ocean-climate action happens in a just and equitable way that will lift up those communities that have been marginalized and forced to endure unjust policies while weathering the worst impacts of climate change.

We hope that all of you ocean lovers and supporters will join us in our critical mission to address the climate crisis and raise the profile of ocean-climate solutions so that the power of the ocean might help keep our planet—and all of us—healthy.

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