Ocean & Climate News

August 15, 2023

Welcome to the August 2023 edition of Ocean & Climate News. This issue focuses on the major ocean and climate-related events that have occurred over the summer of 2023. We also report on the upcoming UNFCCC COP28 (30 November – 12 December 2023) and how the Global Ocean Forum plans to participate with the continuation of the Virtual Ocean Pavilion, a side event, and reporting on ocean and climate action.

In light of key advancements concerning the conservation and management of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), this issue will dive into the background of the recently adopted BBNJ Agreement and developing Global Ocean Forum projects focused on ABNJ issues. Global Ocean Forum is honored to include a perspective on the recent BBNJ Agreement from Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli, former Director of the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.

We will close the issue with a report on other Global Ocean Forum news, including new additions to staff that are sure to strengthen our leadership and expand the impact of our initiatives.

Ocean and Climate-related Events of Summer 2023

Marrakech Partnership on Global Climate Action (MP-GCA)

Launched at the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22), the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action (MP-GCA) provides a framework that aims to enhance and accelerate global climate action among Parties and non-Party stakeholders (NPS). Its mission, which is to strengthen collaboration between governments and key stakeholders (international and regional initiatives and coalitions of cities, regions, businesses, investors, and civil society), focuses on immediate climate action that supports the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The Marrakech Partnership, together with the High Level Champions, have been rallying NPS climate action via their global campaigns: the Race to Zero, the Race to Resilience, and the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). Two key roadmaps support these campaigns: the 2030 Breakthroughs and the Sharm el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda. There has been focus on driving system transformations that are needed to stay within the 1.5 degree limit, supporting non-party stakeholder engagement in the UNFCCC process and enhancing accountability.

The Work Programme for the High-Level Champions and the MP-GCA 2023 was developed on the on the basis of the five-year plan of the improved Marrakech Partnership. It is informed by past work of the High-Level Champions and the Marrakech Partnership, growing momentum in recent years, and the negotiated and climate action outcomes of COP 27. It reflects the shared vision of the High-Level Champions, the emerging priorities of the COP 28 Presidency, and discussions and feedback from stakeholders held at the beginning of 2023.

The MP-GCA has convened the Ocean-Climate Strategic Retreat among key partner organisations of the MP-GCA Ocean & Coastal Zones which have stepped up to take the lead in the five key sectors of ocean-climate action (31 May–2 June, 2023, Dubai). The workshop aimed to identify opportunities for scaling-up and accelerating the adoption of ocean-based climate solutions through the co-design of five sectoral ‘Ocean Breakthroughs’. A breakthrough is a moment that marks a significant advance in the transformation of an economic sector or natural system. So far, there are two existing sector-specific breakthroughs: the 2030 Mangrove and Coral Reef Breakthroughs. See the Dubai workshop report here.

For more information about the MP-GCA, contact Loreley Picourt, Focal Point for the MP-GCA Ocean & Coastal Zones, and Ignace Beguin, Ocean Lead at the Climate Champions Team.

SBSTA Ocean and Climate Dialogue

The third annual Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue was convened in June 2023, following the first dialogue which was held virtually in December of 2020 and the second held in June 2022. The Dialogue brought together Parties and non-Party stakeholders to identify the next priorities for the ocean-climate nexus at COP28 and beyond. With its inception in 2019 at COP25, the dialogues are proving a crucial mechanism for advancing ocean-climate action. The topics discussed in June 2023 centered on coastal ecosystem restoration including blue carbon and fisheries and food security. The Dialogue was chaired by Mr. Niall O’Dea (Canada) and Mr. Julio Cordano (Chile). The participants of the Dialogue “highlighted how important ocean-based adaptation and mitigation is for countries, for us and for the ocean,” (Joanna Post, UNFCCC). Discussions on good practices showed that while ocean action is happening, there is so much more that is possible. Ultimately, outcomes from the Global Stocktake “must recognize that the ocean is a place for national action” and be coordinated closely with climate-resilient marine spatial planning (Joanna Post, UNFCCC).

Global Ocean Forum and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28)

Road to UNFCCC COP28

COP28 will be held in Dubai, UAE from 30 November – 12 December, 2023. It is very likely that a central theme of COP28 will be driven by the Global Stocktake (GST). The GST is a Party-driven process conducted with the participation of non-Party stakeholders that enables countries and other stakeholders to see where they’re collectively making progress toward meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement – and importantly, where they’re not. The stocktake takes place every five years, with the first-ever stocktake scheduled to conclude at the COP28 at the end of this year.

The COP28 President-Designate illuminates the centrality of the GST to COP28 in outlining the following four paradigm shifts as part of their vision to deliver on the pillars of the Paris Agreement and guide discussions at COP28:

  • Fast-tracking the energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030; 
  • Transforming climate finance, by delivering on old promises and setting the framework for a new deal on finance; 
  • Putting nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action; 
  • Mobilizing for the most inclusive COP ever. 

The two-week program of COP28 will be geared towards real world solutions that close the gaps to 2030 and respond to the Global Stocktake. The topic of oceans in particular will be discussed on 9 December, 2023 during the Nature, Land Use and Oceans” thematic day.

Virtual Ocean Pavilion

As in the past, the Global Ocean Forum and several other co-organizers will be organizing a Virtual Ocean Pavilion to run throughout the duration of COP 28. The Virtual Ocean Pavilion has the capability of engaging and reaching those that cannot attend COP28 in-person and presents a long-lasting resource for all – leaving no one behind. A virtual presence at COP28 ensures that the Pavilion will be:

  • Totally within the co-organizers’ control in terms of timing, allowing flexibility to respond to changes in the COP28 schedule; 
  • Adaptable and scalable; and
  • Long-lasting and accessible – being hosted online means it will be available long-after the Virtual Ocean Pavilion has ended.

In the past, the Virtual Ocean Pavilion has been able to offer interesting and important features to augment the COP28 in-person experience. Some of these features include:

  • Panel sessions linking the ocean with the themes of the MP-GCA and the SBSTA Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue themes to provide input to these discussions (including live days and live sessions with Wordly translation into multiple languages);
  • Thirty (30) exhibits including booths on major ocean-related events in 2022 showcasing national and international initiatives on ocean and climate;
  • Multiple opportunities for networking and developing synergies among attendees;
  • Educational and fun features on the platform and in the booths;
  • A gateway to ocean and climate stories from around the world;
  • Links to other ocean events at and around the COP.
Entry portal for the COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion
Entry portal for the COP27 Virtual Ocean Pavilion

Based on positive response to the Virtual Ocean Pavilion when held during COP26 and COP27, the Global Ocean Forum is once more pleased to be organizing a Virtual Ocean Pavilion at COP28 together with various partners.  For more information on past Virtual Ocean Pavilions, see the COP26 and COP27 Virtual Ocean Pavilion summary reports here and here

The Virtual Ocean Pavilion for COP28 will continue the tradition of increased engagement with and visibility of ocean-related issues and will continue compiling the ocean-related activities at the COP, including the events that will be held as part of the Ocean Action Day and the Ocean Pavilion events at COP28. The Global Ocean Forum and Virtual Ocean Pavilion co-organizers will ensure this valuable resource is accessible to all, particularly those that are unable to attend COP28 in-person.

For more details about the COP28 Virtual Ocean Pavilion, including commitment details and benefits for potential sponsors and partners, please view this flyer.

COP 28 Side Event on Nature-based Solutions

The Global Ocean Forum, the Urban Coast Institute-Monmouth University and the Government of Chile, along with several other collaborators, has applied to organize and host a side event at the upcoming COP28. The side event, titled “Investing in Ocean Nature-based Solutions to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change”, will invite speakers to discuss topics such as carbon sequestration through MPAs, national and sub-national ocean nature-based approaches to adaptation including through coral reef and carbon stock restoration and investing on data collection and management to address shifting MPA boundaries. Side event selection and allocation results will be announced on September 29, after which the Global Ocean Forum will continue planning its presence at the COP28.

Continuing the Legacy of Reporting on Ocean and Climate Action 

In addition, the Global Ocean Forum will continue the legacy of the Roadmap to Oceans and Climate Action Initiative (ROCA) with a publication assessing the progress of ocean and climate action across 2022-2023 in preparation of COP28. This publication follows a series of four well-received reports which uniquely tracked the ocean and climate action progress up until 2021. The reports consist of input from many partners, aiming to bolster the recognition of the importance of the oceans in the climate change process and ambition under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, with this report taking a similar approach. To learn more about the ROCA initiative and ocean and climate action, you may access the latest report, “Assessing Progress on Ocean and Climate Action: 2020-2021”.

Biodiversity and ABNJ

Overview of the BBNJ Agreement

The BBNJ Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, was adopted by consensus on June 19th, 2023 by 196 countries. The 53 pages of text represent over two decades of international collaboration among a wide range of stakeholders, not just countries: scientists, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, civil society, academic, research institutions, and the private sector. The Agreement includes binding and voluntary measures and aims to better implement the UNCLOS.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres touted the Agreement as a historic treaty and encouraged all member states to “spare no effort to ensure that this agreement enters into force.” A minimum of 60 countries need to ratify the Agreement for it to come into force.

Key points of the Agreement include:

  • A procedure to establish large-scale marine protected areas in the high seas that facilitates the achievement of the target to effectively conserve and manage 30% of land and sea by 2030;
  • Establishing the sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources and foresees capacity building and the transfer of marine technology among the parties;
  • Clear rules to conduct environmental impact assessments, with the right checks and balances, before running activities in the high seas.

The Agreement will promote the sustainable use of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). ABNJ makeup over 60% of the world’s ocean surface and are home to a diversity of living and non-living resources that provide a wide range of ecosystem services to support human wellbeing. In order to meet the current levels of demand, activities in ABNJ are set to increase. In recognition of this, cooperation, and coordination among organizations with independent mandates and interests in ABNJ will become increasingly important to achieve long-term common goals relating to the effective conservation of biodiversity and sustainable resource use.

Perspective on the 2023 BBNJ Agreement by Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli

Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli served as the Director of the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea until her February 2020 retirement. She devoted her career to the provision of assistance in the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, as well as in supporting the United Nations General Assembly and its processes in considering oceans and the law of the sea, including issues relating to biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

Prospects and constraints for the ratification, approval, acceptance, accession and implementation of the Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement)

The adoption of the BBNJ Agreement on 19 June 2023 represents a major milestone towards improving ocean governance. The Agreement responds to the need to address in a coherent and cooperative manner, biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems of the ocean due to climate change impacts on marine ecosystems, as well as ocean acidification, pollution and unsustainable use.  It includes a number of important principles and approaches. Notably, the Agreement sets out the legal regime for the conservation and sustainable use of marine genetic resources (MGRs), including the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from activities with respect to MGRs and digital sequence information on MGRs; sets out the process for the establishment of a comprehensive system of area-based management tools with ecologically representative and well connected marine protected areas; and operationalizes the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on environmental impact assessments and provides for the possibility to conduct strategic environmental assessments. Furthermore, the Agreement recognizes that support to developing States Parties through capacity-building and the development and transfer of marine technology are essential for the attainment of its objectives and sets out obligations and modalities towards that end. The Agreement also sets out obligations and procedures relating to implementation and compliance and the settlement of disputes, provides for the establishment of institutional arrangements (including a Conference of the Parties (COP) and several subsidiary bodies, including a Scientific and Technical Body and an Implementation and Compliance Committee, a secretariat and a clearing-house mechanism) as well as a financial mechanism. The Agreement underscores the need for cooperation and coordination with and among relevant legal instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional, subregional and sectoral bodies (IFBs) and mandates the establishment of mechanisms or processes by the COP towards that end.

The UN General Assembly in its resolution 77/321 on the BBNJ Agreement, adopted on 1 August 2023, called upon all States and regional economic integration organizations to consider signing and ratifying, approving or accepting the Agreement at the earliest possible date to allow its entry into force. The Agreement, which will be open for signature from 20 September 2023 until 20 September 2025, requires the deposit of 60 instruments of ratification, approval, acceptance or accession in order to trigger its entry into force 120 days later.

It is critical to work towards the Agreement’s swift entry into force and its effective and equitable implementation. Awareness-raising of the benefits and obligations arising from the Agreement among all relevant stakeholders at the national level and at the subregional, regional and global levels among the relevant IFBs is an important first step. Also critical is the availability of capacity-building to support States, in particular developing countries in the ratification, approval, acceptance or accession process. In that regard, the allocation of USD 34 million by the Global Environment Facility for support to developing countries and the European Union’s pledge of 40 million Euros are particularly noteworthy. Going forward it would be beneficial to centralize information on current efforts at awareness-raising and capacity-building undertaken by a range of stakeholders prior to the entry into force of the Agreement and thereby facilitate coordination of efforts.  Information on needs and priorities of developing countries for implementation of the Agreement can also inform the level of financial resources required for implementation.

Certainly, the provision of adequate, accessible and predictable financial resources for implementation will be critical for achieving the objectives of the Agreement and also to entice States to become parties. Therefore, raising new and additional funds to supplement those mentioned in the Agreement at an early stage would require priority attention and could be facilitated through the convening of a pledging conference by the UN Secretary-General. Also vital are preparations for the establishment of the institutional arrangements provided for in the Agreement, including preparations of some draft legal instruments and mechanisms that will facilitate the work of the institutional arrangements when the Agreement enters into force. The establishment of a preparatory commission to prepare for entry into force of the Agreement was proposed by some groups of States and several members of civil society following the adoption of the Agreement at the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference.

BBNJ Informal Dialogues

Following the adoption of the BBNJ Agreement in June 2023, the BBNJ Informal Dialogues will continue to advance progress toward the finalization of the Agreement and progress pre- and post-entry into force of the agreement. The BBNJ Informal Dialogues were designed to be a Track 1.5 Progress. Track 1.5 Diplomacy occurs when government representatives and non-governmental experts engage in dialogue or meetings together in less formal ways than Track 1 diplomacy. The BBNJ Informal Dialogues serve as an unofficial convening space primarily for Member State BBNJ delegates, along with select experts from UN agencies, international, regional and sectoral organizations and bodies and civil society. The continued platform will include an Advisory Committee, Ad hoc Committee and a Consultative Network. Upcoming Dialogues will be held on the following dates:

  • August 2nd, 2023 (past)
  • October 5th, 2023
  • November 22nd, 2023
  • December 14th, 2023

This programme is organized and managed by the International Center for Dialogue and Peacebuilding. The platform has partnered with and been supported by the governments of Monaco, Belgium, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom and France, as well as leading ocean and marine science organizations, including the High Seas Alliance and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Introducing the Common Oceans Cross-Sectoral Project

The Global Ocean Forum (GOF) is now collaborating with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), and GRID-Arendal to carry out the Common Oceans Cross-sectoral Project in the period of 2023-2028. Implemented by the UNEP and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), this project seeks to build and strengthen regional and national capacity for sectoral and cross-sectoral cooperation, knowledge management, and public awareness of the ABNJ. The project 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 Comisión Permanente del Pacífico Sur (CPPS), the Pacific Islands Forum Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), Universidad Católica del Norte (UCN), and the University of the South Pacific (USP).

GOF, UNEP-WCMC, GRID-Arendal, CPPS, OPOC, UCN, and USP will co-execute the project together with 23 co-financing partners, including global, regional, and national organizations, donor agencies, and academic institutions. The project, following a co-design and co-implementation approach, will seek input of various stakeholders, including indigenous peoples with traditional knowledge and customary practices and local communities, during each phase in the development of the capacity building program. Through knowledge exchange, this project will aim to improve cross-sectoral collaboration on key issues such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, seabed disturbance, marine and land-based pollution, and climate change.

Other Global Ocean Forum News

Strengthened Leadership

Tony MacDonald will serve as the incoming Board Director of the International Coastal and Ocean Organization (ICO), the secretariat of the Global Ocean Forum. Tony is currently the director of Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute (UCI). His extensive background in ocean policy, maritime affairs, and executive leadership will bolster GOF’s mission to advance the global ocean agenda towards the sustainable development of marine ecosystems and raise the international profile of oceans, coasts, and islands.

Thanks to the generous donations made to the Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain Memorial Fund, the first ever Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain Fellow, Sarah Davidson, has joined the Global Ocean Forum team. Her work will focus on co-organizing the Virtual Ocean Pavilion to be held at COP28 and managing the GOF Strategic Planning Process, among other duties.

Catie Mitchell is joining the GOF team as the Project Administrative and Financial Professional – Research Assistant for the Common Oceans Cross-sectoral Project. She will contribute to GOF’s growing work on ABNJ issues and bring more awareness to the BBNJ Agreement. Miriam Balgos, the GOF Executive Director, will serve as the Manager and Capacity Development Specialist of the project. 

Prepared by Catie Mitchell, Sarah Davidson, and Miriam Balgos

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