Ocean & Climate News

December 23, 2022

Welcome to the last issue of Ocean & Climate News for 2022. This issue focuses on the final major ocean-related events in 2022, namely the UNFCCC COP27 and the CBD COP15. We included perspectives on the COP27 outcomes from the IPCC and Fiji. We report on the COP27 Virtual Ocean Pavilion, a COP27 side event on Coordination and Collaboration towards Ocean Blue NDCs, and other Global Ocean Forum news. But first, the important ocean-related outcomes of COP27…

Ocean & Climate

UNFCCC COP27: Ocean-Relevant Outcomes

Image Credit: COP27 Presidency

The “Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan,” the document reflecting the final decision of the parties to COP27, expresses commitments to ocean-based climate action in Section XIII, Articles 45 and 46 in recognition of the importance of the integrity of the ocean ecosystem when taking action to address climate change.

In Article 45, the COP welcomes the outcomes and key messages of the UNFCCC Ocean and Climate Dialogue in 2022 and establishes that future ocean and climate change dialogues, beginning in 2023, will be facilitated, in consultation with the Parties and observers, by two co-facilitators to be selected biennially by the Parties. The role of the co-facilitators will also include selecting dialogue topics and preparing informal summary for presentation concurrent with the subsequent COP:

[The Conference of the Parties] [w]elcomes the outcomes of and key messages from the ocean and climate change dialogue in 2022 and decides that future dialogues will, from 2023, be facilitated by two co-facilitators, selected by Parties biennially, who will be responsible for deciding the topics for and conducting the dialogue, in consultation with Parties and observers, and preparing an informal summary report to be presented in conjunction with the subsequent session of the Conference of the Parties.

In Article 46, the COP encourages Parties to include ocean-based action in the development and implementation of national climate goals, including their NDCs, long-term strategies and adaptation plans:

[The Conference of the Parties] [e]ncourages 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.

The UNFCCC Ocean and Climate Dialogue, which had its inception in 2019 at COP25, will be a crucial mechanism for advancing ocean-climate action. For the dialogue to perform this function effectively, dialogue themes must include technical capacity building and financing with the goal of understanding the needs of the Parties when it comes to assessing risk and responding to changing ocean and coastal conditions in the face of ongoing climate change.

To this end, Article 26 of the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan is important due to its emphasis on the need to address gaps in the global climate observing system, particularly in developing countries, and to enhance coordination of systematic observation activities:

[The Conference of the Parties] [e]mphasizes the need to address existing gaps in the global climate observing system, particularly in developing countries, and recognizes that one third of the world, including sixty per cent of Africa, does not have access to early warning and climate information services, as well as the need to enhance coordination of activities by the systematic observation community and the ability to provide useful and actionable climate information for mitigation, adaptation and early warning systems, as well as information to enable understanding of adaptation limits and of attribution of extreme events.

Additionally, Article 44 highlights the ongoing need for long-term, country-driven capacity building efforts to enhance the effectiveness of climate interventions in developing countries:

[The Conference of the Parties] [n]otes that capacity gaps and needs still exist in developing countries and calls on developed country Parties to increase support for long-term country-driven capacity-building interventions to enhance the effectiveness, success and sustainability of those interventions.

Perspectives on the COP27 Outcomes

COP27: Bad compromises overshadow progress made during UN Climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh

Hans Pörtner, Co-Chair, Working Group II, IPCC, and Sina Löschke, Communications Manager, IPCC

Six weeks after the 27th UN climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh was closed, its outcomes are still controversially discussed. We hear people talking about history being made by including food, rivers, nature-based solutions, tipping points, and the right to a healthy environment in an overarching COP “cover decision” for the first time. Coverage of loss and damage has been agreed with details to be developed. Ocean issues and the ocean dialogue were appreciated in the Sharm el-Sheikh implementation plan. The Blue Zone had many Ocean Action events.

At the same time, many experts and activists are disappointed by the lack of progress in regard to deep and rapid emissions reductions, urgently needed to keep risks to humans and nature at a moderate level.

Considerations of nature, its services, and overall dependence on a stable climate

The good news is: Nature’s prominent role in the Earth’s climate system is more and more recognized by decision-makers. “Connecting Climate and Biodiversity” was the title of the high-level segment opening the COP’s very first biodiversity day to address the urgent need for integrated responses at scale. With this, the COP’s presidency followed solution options presented in the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

However, we see a widening gap between high-level rhetoric and the realities of negotiations and decisions made at COP27. On the one hand, ocean, forests, food security, and nature-based solutions are mentioned in the cover text, known as the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan. Forests and Ocean even got their own section in that text.

On the other hand, decisions on emission reductions fail to hit the mark the world was hoping for. Keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius has not been defined as a high priority. Instead, a bad compromise was found by making rather vague statements about emission sources, reflecting the unchanged position of those that want to make a profit by selling fossil fuels and those that think they still have a right to use fossil fuels to boost their nations’ economic development.

Recognizing our shared responsibility and acting accordingly

By calling out coal but intentionally concealing the climate change impact of burning oil and gas, we only name half of the problem, avert meaningful climate action and lose valuable time to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Let’s face it, current global efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to the changing climate are falling short to secure a livable planet for all. The latest IPCC Assessment Report highlights that climate risk develops more strongly with warming. There is a clear differentiation now to be made between warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius, as this relatively small temperature change means a lot in terms of impact – for people as well as for our world’s ecosystems.

We still have a fighting chance to keep climate impacts at moderate levels. But to do so we have to push for action, recognizing our shared responsibility for our planet’s and our own future and for acting accordingly to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Victories for the Ocean-Climate Nexus at COP27: A Step Forward on the Ocean Pathway at the UNFCCC

Izhaar Ali, Ocean Officer, Climate Change & International Cooperation Division, Ministry of Economy, Fiji

COP27 was widely claimed to be an implementation COP with a strong emphasis on the finalization of a funding mechanism for Loss and Damage which, in particular, has been a key point of discussion for the African Group of countries. After years of pressure, a fund was finally established, bringing a sigh of relief especially from amongst the most climate-vulnerable countries. But what did this COP bring for the oceans, and how was the oceans-climate change nexus addressed?

Although the Fijian Government, through the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), had formally reached out to the COP27 Presidency in understanding how the oceans-climate change nexus would be discussed in Sharm el-Sheikh, we had only received vague answers, from ensuring that messaging on oceans was promulgated at side events and Ministerial interventions to ensuring that other thematic areas included segments on oceans in their negotiations. 

Additionally, prior to the COP, Fiji’s Hon. Minister for Economy and Regional Political High Level Champion for Oceans met with the Egyptian Roving Ambassador for the Pacific and highlighted key areas of concern within the climate change agenda, emphasizing the clear need for a dedicated space to discuss ocean issues in Sharm in an effort to generate much needed momentum heading into the COP. 

Moving into the Conference itself, deliberations on what the proposed language would look like had started in October, facilitated by the Friends of the Oceans and a draft on a potential submission was developed. However and as always, there were some conflicting views when this was proposed to other negotiating groups. What was clear, however, was that all Parties agreed that the primary change that was required was on how the Ocean-Climate Change dialogue was to be facilitated. The previous iteration of the Dialogue, which was held along the lines of SBSTA in June 2022, had been an ambitious effort by the Chair to consolidate and discuss most if not all the requests by Parties and compressed into one, three-hour long discussion. Parties were both overwhelmed with the various themes on the agenda and uncertain as to what should have taken precedence, as each had their own preference. 

In Sharm el-Sheikh, the COP27 Presidency, for its part, tried to include as much language as possible on the oceans-climate change nexus within the initial draft texts that were circulated, which was a pleasant surprise to many, and although the finalized text was only able to include three paragraphs on the oceans, it was a vital win to see that the primary request for having two co-facilitators of the ocean-climate change dialogue was considered and adopted. The co-facilitators will ensure that there is transparency and greater communication with Parties and non-Party stakeholders on how the Dialogue will be structured and what themes will be discussed. Additionally, the assumption is that the co-facilitators will also communicate how the informal summary report will be presented to the COP28 Presidency. 

Sharm el-Sheikh was a promise, a promise for progress, and despite our best efforts, there is only so much that can be done on a theme (oceans) that has yet to be acknowledged by the UNFCCC. However, progress is progress and the Dialogue is a space through which the oceans-climate change agenda can develop a stronger foothold within the UNFCCC system. All eyes are now on the in-coming Presidency, who has shown great enthusiasm around oceans. However, only time will tell whether this enthusiasm will translate into the necessary action that is required. Furthermore, the oceans theme now has a significant ally with Samoa Chairing AOSIS for the next two years. Fiji hopes that this Pacific leadership will assist in making headway in the UNFCCC through this greater umbrella negotiating body. We can only look on with optimism and determination for the future, and whatever the outcome, Fiji will always be steadfast in our position for the world’s only recourse and most important resource, the oceans, to be acknowledged and adopted within the UNFCCC system.

The COP27 Virtual Ocean Pavilion: Connecting All on Our Incredible Blue Planet

The COP27 Virtual Ocean Pavilion was held from August 30 until November 18, 2022. The Pavilion opened during Africa Climate Week (August 29-September 2, 2022) and covered the duration of the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP27, 6-18 November 2022). The overall coordination, work in the development of the pavilion, and organization of live events was carried out by the Global Ocean Forum in close partnership with the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, One Ocean Hub, and the Ocean & Climate Platform, together with 28 collaborating partners. The Pavilion drew 4,187 registrations, representing 115 countries, of which 1,313 (31%) logged in to visit the Pavilion and participate in its various features within the duration of the Pavilion and through post-event hosting that allowed on-demand use up to December 18, 2022. The contents of the Pavilion will be made accessible from the Roadmap to Oceans and Climate Action (ROCA) Initiative website in early 2023.

Overall, the Virtual Ocean Pavilion at COP27 was successful in achieving its goals of amplifying the visibility of the ocean-climate nexus and further democratizing the COP, bringing it to a wider audience than would be able to physically attend the conference in person. The VOP was useful in compiling the ocean-related activities at the COP, providing a roster of over 200 ocean-related events and helping to promote the ocean agenda. The roster included the events held as part of the Ocean Action Day and the Ocean Pavilion events at COP27.

The Virtual Ocean Pavilion will return in 2023 for the UNFCCC COP28 to continue the ongoing work of increasing recognition of the vital importance of the ocean to global efforts in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change, and to advance the goal of connecting the people in our incredible blue planet. For more information, see the COP27 Virtual Ocean Pavilion summary report.

COP27 Side Event on Coordination and Collaboration towards Ocean Blue NDCs

Co-organized by the Global Ocean Forum, Government of Fiji, World Ocean Network, and Urban Coast Institute of Monmouth University, this event, held on 15 December 2022, showcased how collaborative initiatives among various stakeholders support the incorporation of ocean action to strengthen the NDCs in response to identified needs.

Amb. S. Prasad, Fiji

Speakers shared how synergies at global, regional, national and sub-national levels promote national ocean-based adaptation and mitigation initiatives. H.E. Mr. Satyendra Prasad, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations in New York and Fiji’s Non-resident High Commissioner to Canada, provided a government perspective on the prospects and opportunities in incorporating ocean-climate action in NDCs. Mrs. Stéphanie Bouziges-Eschmann, Secretary General, French Facility for Global Environment, spoke about illustrative initiatives on nature-based and other coastal sustainable solutions and the links between ocean preservation and climate. Mr. Matthew Bray, Co-founder and CEO, Brayfoil Technologies, a representative startup from OceanHub Africa, talked about the strategic role and importance of startups. Mr. Tony MacDonald, Director, Urban Coast Institute, shared the Mid-Atlantic experience in promoting collaborative ocean-based climate solutions from a sub-national/regional perspective. Dr. Peter Ricketts, President, Acadia University, provided insights on promoting ocean-based climate solutions through universities and other academic and research institutions. Ms. Anna Maria Marino, Liaison Officer on Arctic and Oceans, Youth and Environment Europe, challenged and inspired the audience with her intervention on the role and opportunities for the youth in promoting ocean-based climate solutions. Mr. Richard Delaney, Center for Coastal Studies and Dr. Indumathie Hewawasam, Sustainable Oceans and Coasts, LLC, moderated the panel presentations and subsequent discussion. The recording of the event may be viewed here.

COP27 side event panelists © C. Clauwers

Looking Forward: UNFCCC COP28

The 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP28) is scheduled to be held on 30 November to 12 December, 2023, in the United Arab Emirates in the city of Dubai.

Biodiversity & ABNJ

CBD COP15: Ocean-Relevant Outcomes

The UN Biodiversity Conference (Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)), chaired by China and hosted by Canada, was held in two parts. Part 1 was held virtually on 11-15 October, 2021. Part 2 was held in Montreal, Canada, from 7-19 December, 2022. In attendance on site at Part 2 of the COP were representatives of 188 parties and two non-parties (the Vatican and the United States). 

The COP’s primary objective was the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which recognizes the need for urgent policy action on the global, regional, and national levels to implement effective economic, social, and financial mechanisms to stabilize biodiversity loss by 2030 and to achieve net improvements in the recovery of natural ecosystems by 2050. Draft One of the framework, which builds on the lessons learned from the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets, was released in July, 2021. Consistent with this objective, the COP finalized and approved measures to halt ongoing loss–including human-generated loss–of terrestrial and marine biodiversity and to put in place clear indicators to measure humanity’s progress towards achieving a sustainable relationship with natural ecosystems.

Photo credit: IISD / Mike Muzurakis

On Monday, December 19, the final day of the conference, the closing plenary adopted a compromise package of six decisions on the monitoring framework, resource mobilization, digital sequence information (DSI), and capacity building for the “Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework” (GBF), as well as mechanisms for planning, monitoring, reporting, and review under this framework. Included within the framework adopted by the COP are four overarching global goals: A) substantially increasing the area of natural ecosystems, halting the rate of human-induced extinction of known species and reducing the extinction rates of all species by the year 2050, and maintaining the genetic diversity of wild and domesticated populations; B) sustainable use and management of biodiversity, including ecosystem services, by 2050; C) equitable sharing of the monetary and non-monetary benefits of genetic resources by 2050; and D) providing financial resources, capacity-building, technical and scientific cooperation, and access to and transfer of technology to fully implement the biodiversity framework, specifically in developing countries. 

The GBF also includes 23 targets for achievement by the year 2030. These targets include several notable ocean-related outcomes, such as bringing the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance close to zero by 2030 and implementing participatory integrated biodiversity inclusive spatial planning and/or effective management processes to address sea use change (Target 1); ensuring that 30% of coastal and marine areas, especially those of particular importance to biodiversity, are, by 2030, effectively conserved and managed through area-based conservation measures, recognizing and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and ensuring that sustainable use, where appropriate, is consistent with conservation outcomes (Target 3); and minimizing the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on biodiversity through nature-based solutions and/or ecosystem-based approaches (Target 8).

Integrated Coastal Management was recognized in the Kunming-Montreal GBF monitoring framework regarding a complementary indicator for Target 1b on Red List of Ecosystems and Percent of land and seas covered by biodiversity-inclusive spatial plans. 

Final decisions on marine and coastal biodiversity were adopted by the COP regarding: ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) on completed descriptions (CBD/COP/15/L.13) and further work (CBD/COP/15/L.14); and taking into account the assessments by IPBES and the Regular Process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment in the implementation of the GBF (CBD/COP/15/L.15).

BBNJ IGC5 to Resume

The 5th substantive session of the intergovernmental conference on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ IGC5) will reconvene at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City from 20 February to 3 March, 2023.

Cross-sectoral Cooperation Project

This GEF-funded UNEP project under the Common Oceans Program to be led by the Global Ocean Forum, is expected to start implementation in January 2023. The project is committed to building and strengthening regional and national capacity for sectoral and cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination, knowledge management and public awareness of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). It aims to raise awareness of the BBNJ Agreement and improve cooperation on ABNJ governance in two pilot regions: the Southeast Pacific region and the Pacific Islands region, working with the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, GRID-Arendal, Comisión Permanente del Pacífico Sur, the Pacific Islands Forum Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Universidad Católica del Norte, and the University of the South Pacific. A project inception workshop is scheduled for January 17/18, 2023.

Other GOF News

Leadership Updates

Moving forward into 2023, Dr. Miriam Balgos, who formerly served as Officer-in-Charge and Director of Organizational Development of the Global Ocean Forum, will now serve as its Executive Director. Mr. Richard Delaney of the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA, will act as the President of GOF’s Board of Directors. Dr. Indumathie Hewawasam of Sustainable Oceans and Coasts, LLC, and Mr. Tony MacDonald of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ, will be overseeing the GOF Strategic Planning Process.

Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain Memorial Fund

Thanks to the generous donations of our friends and colleagues, in 2022, the Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain Memorial Fund exceeded its goal and raised a total of nearly $33,000 to support the development of an internship and fellowship program. We invite additional financial contributions to support this program which will allow undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to experience being part of civil society’s efforts in advancing the global ocean agenda through diverse initiatives and in various United Nations and other international fora.

Prepared by Johanna Vonderhorst and Miriam Balgos

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