The Ocean-Climate Nexus

Securing a stable atmosphere and a resilient ocean for future generations

The Ocean sustains all life on Earth. It produces half the oxygen every human being breathes, absorbs a quarter of all of the CO2 emitted by human activities, and captures approximately 90% of the anthropogenic heat added to the global system. Despite its’ crucial interconnectedness with the Earth’s atmosphere, it is only mentioned twice under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty regime. Beyond the climate treaty regime, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) contains provisions that may be applicable to ocean-climate issues, and Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 14 address the climate and the ocean, respectively. There is growing consensus that this disparate approach to the nexus between the ocean and the climate must be tackled, and at COP25 a joint proposal was accepted by the UNFCCC Secretariat for consideration of integrating the ocean-climate nexus into the formal climate negotiations at COP26 in November 2021. To maintain the health of the ocean, an ocean-climate strategy must address the risks and damages highlighted in the 2019 Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate while also accounting for the services the ocean provides. The pending climate negotiations place the ocean-climate nexus center stage and small island, big ocean states are the leaders for this ocean-climate strategy. Big ocean states already include the ocean in Nationally Determined Contributions and conduct blue carbon research.

From the Green Mountains to Small Islands

Providing a community based advocacy approach in support of small island nations 

This hybrid classroom/experiential course taught by Professor Sarah Reiter examines the negotiation of international climate change agreements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the UNFCCC has been the primary forum for the negotiation of international agreements concerning climate change. The Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris signaled the beginning of a universal bottom up approach to combating climate change. Negotiations continue as nations submit their second round Nationally Determined Contributions, and prepare for the Global Stocktake in 2023. Students work with small island clients and track the negotiations, gaining a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental issues, negotiation process, and political dynamics of the UNFCCC.

Advancing the Ocean Agenda beyond the BLUE COP

This year, the Vermont Law delegation will gain first-hand experience by supporting the work of the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT). Students will deconstruct the results of COP25 and determine what is next for the ocean and climate.