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Ocean Climate Action Pathway: Call for Action

posted Sep 20, 2019, 6:18 AM by Monize Garcia


Ocean Climate Action Pathway to the UNFCCC COP25: Creating an Ocean Knowledge to Policy Dialogue towards a Coherent and Coordinated Framework to address the impacts of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and climate change on ocean and coastal zones, ensure the UN sustainable development goals and contribute to the Paris Agreement objective to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.

Note: this Call for Action is NOT a Declaration. It is a concrete proposal that will be delivered to the UN General Secretary and to the UNFCCC, as well as to all governments Parties to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. Political will and action is crucial to find solutions through a structured and knowledgeable dialogue and the means are on the side of Parties to the UNFCCC, the UN, its member States and the UN Secretary-General. This Call provides a 'How to do' relevant to the restructuring of the UN system. We need to know what is needed before acting into mega initiatives that postpone solutions: we need practice, and action, at all scales of governance. Ambition does not produce results. FOA will lead the implementation of this Call for Action with concrete action from a bottom-up perspective.

The Future Ocean Alliance,

Reaffirming  that  the  Ocean  and  its  Coastal  Zones,  where  over  40%  of  the  world  population  inhabits,  are  priority  areas particularly susceptible to and affected by the increase of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere and  by  climate  change,  noting  in  particular,  the  conclusions  of  the  1.5ºC  IPCC  Report;  that  environmental,  social  and, consequently, economic effects, will continue rising; and that adapting to changes with a preventive and adaptive outlook will allow economies to seize opportunities derived from global change and flourish, rather than reacting to emergencies and their costs; and

Recognizing that up to this moment, UN organizations and intergovernmental processes have been addressing climate change and other GHG emission impacts on ocean and costal zones  following an ad hoc, case‐by‐case  and fragmented approach, across institutions and scales of governance – from global to local levels, and

Highlighting that two major processes delivering climate action, the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCCC) and  the  Sustainable  Development  Goals  (SDG),  need  to  deliver  climate  action  on  ocean  and  coastal  zones  with  a  holistic, multidisciplinary and cross‐sectoral approach.

Urges the UN, its Secretary‐General, and the Parties to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement (PA) to:

  •     Recognize  the  fundamental  role  and  value  of  ocean  and  coastal  ecosystem  services  in  climate  processes,  sustainable development and survival of human kind, and that it is urgent to identify gaps, and find cross‐cutting ways to consider these issues towards developing a coordinated, coherent and crosscutting framework that addresses impacts of climate change in ocean and coastal zones within the processes under the UNFCCC and the PA
  •     Prioritize ocean and coastal areas and the interaction of climate change and other impacts of GHG anthropogenic emissions, and give priority, in the context of the Global Climate Action agenda, to the consideration of the impacts and interactions of climate change on ocean and coastal areas during the next COP (COP25)

Invites the Parties to the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement to establish an Ocean Knowledge to Policy Dialogue at the COP25 of UNFCCC.  This  Dialogue  could  build  upon  the  Marrakesh  Partnership  for  Global  Climate  Action,  and  with  the  support  of  the UNFCCC  Global  Climate  Action  Team.  The  Dialogue  would  mainstream  the  development  of  a  forward  looking,  coherent  and coordinated  framework  to  address  the  impacts  of  anthropogenic  GHGs  emissions  and  climate  change  on  ocean  and  coastal zones, including actions towards sustainable development, and a sustainable blue economy that is climate resilient and low in GHGs  emissions.  The  Dialogue  would  bring  together  Parties,  the  scientific  community  and  other  stakeholders  to  engage  in cooperative  action  to  identify  needs  and  vulnerabilities  and  to  deliver  forward‐looking  adaptation  and  mitigation  in  ocean, coastal ecosystems.

Invites the UN Secretary General to create an Ocean‐Climate Knowledge to Policy Dialogue to deliver a multidisciplinary and cross‐sectoral  framework  and  programme  that  addresses  sustainable  development  pathways  to  1.5°C  of  global  warming  in ocean and coastal zones,  mindful of transitional ecosystems and human settlements therein, in industrialized and developing nations,  with  particular  emphasis  on  Low‐Lying  States’  and  Small  Island  Developing States  coastal  cities  and communities,  in order to promote a coherent action framework between SGDs 14 and 13 with the SDGs 6, 11, 15, 2, 10 and 12. Building on the 1.5°C IPCC Report and the forthcoming IPCC report on the Ocean and Cryosphere, the Dialogue should ensure the integration of key UN initiatives, including:

 (1) The UN  Decade on Ocean Sciences, to incite the ocean scientific  community to answer ‘What kind of monitoring  and knowledge is necessary to specifically address the impacts of global change in ocean and coastal zones under the UNFCCC process?;’

 (2)  The  UN  Decade  on  Habitat  Restoration  and  (3)  the  UN  Decade  on  Biodiversity,  and  (4)  the  Sendai  Framework  for Disaster Risk Reduction to further develop climate resilient plans and responses (adaptation and mitigation), under the lens of ecosystem‐based approaches, inclusive of their local communities and blue carbon.

Basis for Action: Background

Current scientific and empirical evidence of the impacts of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and  climate  change  in  ocean  and  coastal  zones,  as  described  in  the  IPCC  1.5°C  Report  (IPCC,  2018),1 demonstrate, with a high degree of confidence, the need for further action to address the interplay between GHG emissions and climate change impacts on ocean and marine coastal zones. Addressing these impacts requires  articulating  the  territorial  continuum   between  land  and  marine  ecosystems,  inclusive  of shorelines, their cliffs, rocks and beaches, as well as their transitional habitats such as coastal dunes and wetlands, lagoon systems, estuaries and deltas, as well as the coastal marine habitats (e.g. coral reefs) that serve coastal communities and coastal cities.

Coastal ecosystems provide natural protection and livelihoods to coastal communities; providing resources, leisure and a higher quality of live, and providing ecosystem services for numerous economic activities, inter alia  tourism,  navigational  recreation,  trade,  and  ports  for  shipping  and  fisheries.  Costal  and  transitional habitats  are  a  center  point  for  economic,  social,  and  cultural  development  and  they  are  a  fundamental nursery and source of replenishment of ocean living resources. They are also the lands’ receiver for 80% of land‐based pollution: from diffuse to point pollution, and waste, such as plastics. Small scale fisheries supply almost half of the world’s seafood stock, and are the source of 70% of the animal protein intake for coastal communities.  In  addition,  approximately  50%  of  all  international  tourists  travel  to  coastal  areas.  Ocean, coastal  and  marine  resources  are  very  important  for  people  living  in  coastal  communities.:  in  some developing countries, notably Small Island Development States (SIDS), tourism accounts for over 25 per cent of GDP.

More than 600 million people (around 10 per cent of the world’s population) live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level. Cities in developing countries are particularly vulnerable, in particular to increasing extreme weather events and the due to existing poverty and environmental stresses. Especially vulnerable to climate events are low‐lying coastal areas where many of the world’s largest cities are located. In spite the increase of the severity impacts of climate change in coastal land and marine areas, the trend is for coastal settlements and coastal urbanization to continue increasing. Over 40% of the world’s population (2.4  billion  people)  live  within  100  km  of  the  coast.  In  SIDS,  59%  of  residents  live  in  coastal  urban settlements.2Urban areas present specific challenges, particularly in SIDS, low‐lying areas, and megacities. Megacities in the coastal zone (MCCZ) are expected to increase to 301.7 million people by 2025. Today, the number of megacities has tripled to 33 (529 million, 13 per cent of the world’s urban dwellers),3  and this number is expected to growth to 43 by 2030.4

The results of Global Climate Action under the Marrakesh Partnership of the UNFCCC in particular, during COP24, which were based on exchanges of scientific knowledge (IPCC, 2018) and experiences of empirical nature, among Parties and non‐Parties, provide solid evidence, including through the Talanoa Dialogues, that countries are being impacted and are already addressing impacts in ocean and coastal zones.

The next Conference of the Parties (COP25) of the UNFCCC and the Secretary General’s UN Climate Summit are historical opportunities to prompt the UN governance system and the Agenda 2030 to bring addressing ocean and coastal zones with climate change into its [proper] place: raising the ambition of climate action (SDG13) in ocean and coastal zones towards sustainable pathways to the target of 1.5°C as the limit of global warming.


1. IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre‐industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty, with special emphasis on chapters 3 and 4. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

2.UN‐Habitat, 2015. Urbanization and Climate Change in Small Island Developing States’. UN‐Habitat Cities and Climate Change Series (HS/004/15E).. 43 p.

3.UN Habitat, 2017. http://wcr.unhabitat.org/wp‐content/uploads/sites/16/2016/05/Chapter‐1‐WCR‐2016.pdf

4. UN DESA, 2018. The World’s Cities in 2018. Data booklet. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2018). (ST/ESA/SER.A/417).

5. von Glasow R, Jickells TD, Baklanov A, et al., 2013. Megacities and large urban agglomerations in the coastal zone: interactions between atmosphere, land,

and marine ecosystems. Ambio. 2013;42(1):13–28. doi:10.1007/s13280‐012‐0343‐9:

6. UNDESA, 2017. UN Ocean Conference, Fact Sheet: Factsheet: People and Oceans 2017.

Supporting this Call: UN member States, Parties to UNFCCC, and all interested Climate Action non-Parties Actors, and individuals, willing to subscribe/support/adopt/endorse this Call for Action are invited to contact FOA (info@future-ocean-alliance.org).

Monize Garcia,
Sep 20, 2019, 6:18 AM