Ocean and Climate Forum, COP22, 2016

Facing the facts: a quick summary of our work

By Claire Bertin and Romain Schumm

“The international law of the sea and the climate”
The current legal climate framework does not take into account the ocean per se; it merely addresses it through the limited prism of carbon sinks and reservoirs. For the first time in 2015, the oceans have been viewed as full-fledged ecosystems. They have been included in the preamble of the Paris Agreement, although this part of the treaty is not legally binding.
Moreover, international law fails to take into account the interactions between ocean and climate, such as how melting ice in the Arctic opens up new maritime routes and greater access to natural resources. Or, what is even more telling, how sea-level rise shifts maritime borders and even leads to entire States disappearing and massive internal and international migration. Similarly, the consequences of climate change on marine biodiversity is only burgeoning now.
It is urgent and crucial that we fill these gaps. We need to elaborate an international action plan, as suggested by Because the Ocean and the Ocean and Climate Platform‘s recommendations. We need this action plan because it would foster a better implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as push for a greater inclusion of the ocean in the international climate regime.
© Kirk sato
Intended Nationally Determined Contributions
There are numerous interactions between the ocean and the climate. This relationship is upset by the impacts of climate change. The consequences are far reaching for the States’ economy, security and society. When it comes to implementing the Paris Agreement, INDCs should include the ocean in order to achieve greater policy cohesion in all relevant sectors.
Moreover, the ocean and the coast are hotspots for mitigation and adptation solutions. For instance, integrated coastal management facilitates the implementation of agricultural policies that are both good for the farmers and for the environment. These policies are aimed at fighting erosion, and have a positive impact on limiting the salinisation of arable lands and groundwater while increasing the average crop yield. Integrated coastal management also targets zones along the coast where meadows supply multiple services – fight against erosion, stock carbon, protect and reinforce marine biodiversity.
However, despite the enthusiasm of COP21, INDCs – when they exist – often lack innovative and practical tools to integrate the ocean in national policies. Given that many ocean-based solutions are cheap and sustainable, we hope to see States develop more ocean-friendly INDCs.

Marine ecosystem services

© Kirk sato
Studies show that the ocean and the coasts supply many more services when they are protected and well managed. Our goal is to include ecosystem services in marine management. We hope they will be recognized for their essential role in mitigation and adaptation to climate change, since their local impacts have global consequences. For the ocean to fulfill this mission, it is necessary that its biodiversity is preserved everywhere, from the coastlines to the deep sea.
Let us consider for a second Posidonia meadows in the Mediterranean sea. These aquatic flowering plants live on the coasts and have numerous different functions: to many species, they mean habitat, breeding ground and nursery; to us humans, they represent carbon sinks and help protect our coastlines.
Let us now think globally. Ocean circulation is a complex mechanism which plays a central role in climate regulation and marine biodiversity conservation. This circulation matters because it enables the ocean to transport heat, oxygen and nutrients across basins around the globe.
According to WWF, the ocean generates each year economic benefits that are valued at least at 2 500 billion dollars! So why not protect the ocean simply because it is essential to our economy, our well-being and ultimately our survival?
In a complex environment, it is important to remember that local actions have global impacts, and vice versa. A healthy ocean is our best ally if we want to have a sustainable lifestyle and foster an environmentally, socially and economically-friendly future. We have good news: our ocean has a susbtantial capacity for resilience. We must all be actors in the fight against climate change, and this means fighting to protect the seas and oceans”.