Incorporating Oceans into the Paris Agreement

“We are at a tipping point,” warned Angus Friday, Grenada’s Ambassador to the United States, in today’s side event on “The Importance of Addressing Oceans and Coasts in an Ambitious Agreement at the UNFCCC COP 21.” Speakers at the event reported on mobilization efforts around ocean and climate issues taking place at COP21, with emphasis on the most vulnerable people and ecosystems.

Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, President of the Global Ocean Forum, said that a new article in the Paris agreement on oceans is unlikely. However, she encouraged the more likely option—accepting the suggested revision referring to oceans in the December 5th draft agreement addendum. This textual suggestion to the preamble is in bold below:

Also recognizing the importance of the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including biomass, forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems, including through internationally agreed approaches [such as REDD-plus and the joint mitigation and adaptation approach for the integral and sustainable management of forests], and of their non-carbon co-benefits,

Whether this reference to oceans will be accepted in the final Paris agreement remains to be determined. Dr. Carol Turley, an ocean scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory stressed the pressing importance of this issue: “The ocean needs a voice, and the time is now to get the ocean into the text.”