Oceans Day in Paris
From December 2nd-6th, 2015, climate change leaders of the world gathered to guarantee that oceans are on the negotiations agenda. Previously sidelined during major climate meetings, oceans became a central topic of discussion at COP21 in Paris. December 4th marked “Oceans Day” at the Rio Conventions Pavilion, where a wide variety of panelists and delegates gathered to focus on pressing climate issues predicted to impact the world’s oceans. The day’s agenda focused on both environmental and human issues, recognizing the interconnections between coastal climate change impacts and vulnerable populations.
There were panels ranging from “Addressing the Effects of Climate Change on Oceans and on Coastal and SIDS Populations” to “Mitigation and the Oceans” and “Adaptation and Financing for Adaptation.” There were also special addresses from H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco and H.E. Ms. Mary Robinson (President of the Mary Robinson Foundation).
The extensive list of organizers and co-organizers reveals the high level of cooperation and collaboration needed to address global marine issues. Organizers included the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Global Ocean Forum, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission-UNESCO, the Ocean Policy Research Foundation (part of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Japan), the University of Delaware Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy, and the Ocean and Climate Platform. Co-organizers included the governments of Sweden, South Africa, Grenada, Indonesia, Portugal, and the Seychelles; intergovernmental organizations like the Global Environment Facility, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the FAO, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Non-governmental and foundation co-organizers included the IUCN, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Global Island Partnership, and the World Ocean Observatory, among others.
The Global Oceans Forum succinctly summarizes why there is such a need to attention to marine issues at the Paris COP: “Oceans and climate are intertwined, with oceans driving climate and climate change affecting ocean health and coastal and island peoples.” The decisions made at this COP have vast implications for both the world’s marine ecosystems and the people who rely on them – be they coastal communities, harvesters, or consumers.
According to the Global Oceans Forum: “Oceans cycle over 93% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, produce 50% of the oxygen we breathe, store 50% of all naturally sequestered carbon, and absorb 90% of the heat added to the global system in the past 200 years,” reminding us that we cannot separate discussions of climate from marine environments. It is encouraging to see the international community recognizing these connections and making strides to integrate oceans into climate planning.