All eyes are on Paris with the UNFCCC’s COP21 underway. World leaders, the private sector and civil society have gathered together to seek a new, binding treaty to address climate change and the world waits to see if they can achieve the ambition with the resolve required. After strong opening statements by the largest-ever gathering of world leaders in one place, on one day, to discuss one issue, there is real hope that substantial progress within the negotiations can be made. Finally there is a collective sense of urgency around addressing the single biggest threat facing humankind.
The High Seas Alliance hopes that by the end of these negotiations, there will be a real breakthrough and consensus among all governments to make commitments that will achieve targeted and measured cuts in emissions and to hold temperature rise as low as possible. However, a central part of the Earth system — and a key factor in climate change — is missing. The ocean has received little focus in the discussions to date; it does not feature on the agenda despite its essential role as a global climate regulator.
The ocean alone absorbs almost as much CO2 as all land-based forests and plants combined and the negative effects on the ocean of climate change include the very consequences most repeatedly highlighted by Leaders: sea-level rise, acidification, warming and storm surges.In July 2015 the first UN Global Integrated Marine Assessment recognized that climate change has serious implications for the ocean. Notably, it has been predicted that up to 60 percent of the current ocean biomass will be affected, resulting in disruptions to many existing ocean ecosystem services and productivity. Yet, the ocean receives even less attention than forests. Where is the REDD for the blue?
Members of the High Seas Alliance call on COP21 to:
- Aim for stringent emission limits consistent with scientific evidence to curb irreversible changes to ocean marine ecosystems;
- Develop through the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a Special Report on the ocean, building on IPCC AR5 (chap. 3) to investigate interactions between and impact on the ocean and climate, to inform the implementation of the Paris Agreement and future COP decisions;
- Include marine and coastal ecosystem-based approaches for mitigation and adaptation in climate finance mechanisms; and
- Formally incorporate a more ocean-inclusive agenda into future COPs.
Providing every second breath of oxygen we take, the ocean is what makes our planet habitable. Let’s remember that in the days ahead, as we call on our governments to formally address climate change impacts on marine ecosystems, fisheries, coastal livelihoods, and their direct implications for human well-being and biodiversity.
For ongoing daily updates on ocean-related activities at COP21 go to oceansinc.org and follow us on twitter @oceans_inc.org.
 See Summary of the first Global Integrated Marine Assessment: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/70/112
 Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) – is a group of policies designed to provide a financial incentive to governments, businesses and communities to maintain rather than reduce forest cover.