25 Apr 2019 - Hosts of UN climate talks push ocean health up political agenda in year when IPCC scientists will deliver major report on climate link.
Chile plans to use this year’s UN climate talks to focus attention on the world’s most important carbon sponge – the oceans.
Oceans mop up vast amounts (up to 80%) of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by humans. The ecosystems they support could provide new, albeit controversial, ways to draw carbon from the air.
But their health and management remains sidelined from the key political forum on climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
That could change this year. Host nation Chile, which has control over almost 18 million sq km of the world’s oceans, is calling this year’s Cop25 UN climate conference in Santiago a “Blue Cop”.
At a special preparatory meeting in Madrid earlier this month politicians, scientists, and NGOs discussed ways to use the meeting to gain political traction.
“Time is running out,” Chile’s environment minister and the Cop25 president Carolina Schmidt told the meeting through a video. “This is why Chile has been pushing to highlight this problem. In our vision, there cannot be an effective response to climate change without a global response to ocean issues.”
The UN body of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is due to release a landmark report on the complex linkages between ocean and climate change in September. This is expected to add impetus to Chile’s programme.
What it means to host a “Blue Cop” is still up for debate. Rémi Parmentier, secretary of Because the Ocean, an initiative signed by 23 countries at COP21 in Paris to call for the IPCC report, told Climate Home News “the role of the ocean in mitigating climate change, and the ocean change that it is causing (ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, etc) will take centre stage, now and in the future”.
“Ocean and climate are two sides of the same coin: if we want to protect the climate, we must protect the ocean, and vice-versa,” Parmentier said.
According to observers from the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, some governments at the meeting requested that ocean health be placed on the formal agenda for the Cop. This would hoist marine issues at the top of the list of climate priorities.