Progress Report on an Ocean COP25

The moment we have all been waiting for; IT’S OCEANS DAY! The Ocean Pathway made a splash today with all the ocean-related events today, spanning from 10am to 8pm. The past two days have had some great events, highlighting the importance of ocean health and what countries are going to implement marine conversation platforms moving forward.

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The opening event (actually held yesterday) began with a Because the Ocean event. This initiative, adopted in COP21, is where countries vowed to push for more ocean-related policy into UNFCCC matters. To date, the countries have held multiple conferences and workshops on marine policy, made great efforts to include oceans in NDCs and in future COP agenda items, and implemented various conservation projects. Below are just some examples on how countries are healing our neglected oceans.


Fiji and Sweden both co-chaired the Ocean Pathway, a platform to encourage an ocean-theme COP agenda item. Fiji, a now “large ocean state” (instead of a small island country, the typical name) realized that the parties needed the ocean to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. It believed that climate change and the ocean are “different sides of the same coin.” The Swedish representative described different ocean strategies they incorporated into their national policies. She also stressed the importance of the youth stepping up to the governments and demanding change in environmental protections, using Greta Thunberg as an example.

Spain has taken the initiative to host multiple workshops and conferences these past few years. It announced its intent to release a special report on the oceans and host a special event for all the ministries in the E.U., but sometime next year. I personally will try to attend the workshop in Madrid next April.

The U.K. has done a great job cutting down their marine plastic pollution contributions. It has also allocated 5.8 billion pounds to ocean/climate funding. The British representative expressed her passion for mangrove (or “blue forests”) protection, and has pushed in her government to increase those efforts. In fact, the U.K. has protected marine ecosystems in their territories as well as their own coastline. “All of our blue places are just as important as are green places.”

Indonesia summarized the role of oceans perfectly: “the ocean does not need us, but we need the ocean.” The country has many important marine ecosystems that act as major carbon sinks, and it wishes to protect them from dangerous activities like illegal fishing, dangerous aquaculture practices, coastal erosion, sea level rise and frequent flooding, and using petroleum.

Canada has longest coastline in the world, and recognizes that oceans are at risk due to dangerous stressors, including climate change. It too is making a lot of efforts to reduce its marine plastic pollution.

Australia is focused on blue carbon ecosystem protection, and has spearheaded the international blue carbon policy platform. It is a huge supporter of coral reef conservation, since the Great Barrier Reef is along its coastline. Australia pushed observers to collect more research to make politicians more confident to act.

So next stop, OCEAN COP25! (hopefully!)


Working Towards an “Ocean COP”

Ocean health is a big deal. It provides food security and resources to sustain our economies. It regulates our weather patterns. It absorbs heat and our carbon dioxide emissions. We often forget how dependent we are on the oceans. But lucky for us, UNFCCC Parties recognize that the “well below 2˚C” goal is not achievable without the ocean.

In June 2017, Fiji and Sweden co-chaired the first UN Ocean Conference in New York City—a conference on ocean health and sustainability. Fiji used that momentum as the COP23 President to bring awareness of ocean health to climate change discussions. Partnering again with Sweden, this dynamic duo co-chaired the Ocean Pathway. In total, 10 parties and 14 Advisory groups committed to the Ocean Pathway at COP23. Participation is likely to increase at COP24 following a year of devastating weather events.

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The Ocean Pathway is a new innovation to incorporate ocean conservation into the international climate change regime. This two-track strategy will (1) “increase the role of ocean consideration in the UNFCCC process” while (2) “significantly increasing action in priority areas impacting or impacted by [the] ocean and climate change.” 

The first track aims to develop a strategy to implement the ocean into UNFCCC negotiations with the “Friends of the Ocean” process—an open forum for Parties to discuss, debate, and implement measures to combat ocean concerns for the next two COPs. The goal is to make COP25 the “Ocean COP” by developing an effective work programme and potential agenda item by 2020.

The second track will strengthen previous ocean and climate change actions by developing new partnerships and platforms to increase momentum in the ocean conservation movement. Such actions include reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reducing fossil fuel consumption, and increasing protection of blue carbon areas. Most important to COP24, the Because of the Ocean Coalition encourages Parties’ to include ocean-related measures in their NDCs! Not only will Parties combat climate change, but they can also tackle important concerns like ocean acidification, sea level rise, and pollution. A major win in the marine conservation realm!