One of the main topics I focused on while I was at COP was the role of the ocean in climate action. To my surprise, even outside of Ocean Action Day, there were many ocean-related panels happening throughout Week 2 of COP. I found myself having to choose between ocean events taking place on the same day at the same time! This was exciting to experience since it reflected the rising significance of the ocean in climate discussions.
Blue Carbon was one of the trending topics during COP27 based on the number of side events that were organized around this natural climate solution. Blue carbon is the carbon captured by coastal ecosystems and it is being explored as both a climate mitigation and adaptation solution by many different stakeholders. What makes blue carbon attractive is that not only does it have a high carbon sequestration potential, but it also has multiple co-benefits for the communities that live in locations surrounded by these ecosystems. Therefore, groups that are exploring the potential of blue carbon as a solution in the climate change discussion must be aware of their value beyond carbon. In an effort to expand blue carbon expertise and scale up projects in Southeast Asia, Conservation International and Amazon along with support from the Singapore Economic Development Board launched the International Blue Carbon Institute. For anyone interested in learning more about this institute, check out this article: https://www.conservation.org/press-releases/2022/11/16/amazon-and-conservation-international-establish-international-blue-carbon-institute
In addition, the high-quality blue carbon principles and guidance were launched by Conservation International, along with Salesforce and other ocean leaders, in an effort to ensure transparency and accountability around blue carbon projects. These principles will be a starting point for project developers who want to achieve high quality results which will help maintain the demand for blue carbon credits. The guidance can be found here: https://merid.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/HQBC-PG_FINAL_11.8.2022.pdf
Ocean Visions hosted an event on ocean-based climate solutions and how the ocean can play a role in CO2 removal. The event brought speakers from different stakeholder groups: academia (Georgia Tech), nonprofit (the UN Environment Programme) and government (the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the US State Department and Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Presidency of Kenya). As the need to understand the value of the oceans was discussed, there were some important points made about how scientists need to understand the dynamics of international negotiations and the role of a political scientist to push things forward when scaling the ability to manage oceans.
The ocean was also featured in the final declaration, with the preamble stating “the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including in forests, the ocean and the cryosphere, and the protection of biodiversity” and to the “the critical role of protecting, conserving and restoring water systems and water-related ecosystems in delivering climate adaptation benefits and co-benefits, while ensuring social and environmental safeguards”. In addition, ocean-based climate solutions are addressed in the final decision through the following language in Article 46: “encourages Parties to consider, as appropriate, ocean-based action in their national climate goals and in the implementation of these goals, including but not limited to nationally determined contributions, long-term strategies and adaptation communications;”
Even though COP has ended, I hope the conversations around the ocean’s role in climate action will continue to grow and countries will act on the commitments that were made in the last 2 weeks to ensure the long-term health of the ocean while meeting their climate goals.