Oceans look forward to COP21


Within the ocean community, bringing together scientists, NGOs and representatives of the private sector, COP21 is eagerly awaited. For several months now, we have been consulting and organizing, we team up and we are preparing publications and events that we hope will have a decisive impact on the negotiations. Because the link between ocean and climate is real, and even double: as a major regulator of the world's climate on the one hand, the ocean is undergoing the impacts of climate change on the other. While these links give the ocean community undeniable legitimacy to intervene in the climate debate, are they enough to influence the course of the negotiations leading to the Paris Agreement?

RFirst of all, let us call first of all that the interest of the ocean community is, as for many other constituted groups (on the forestsThe aim of the conference is to promote a global agreement on climate change (e.g., health, food security, desertification, etc.) and to see the adoption in Paris of an ambitious, universal and binding agreement to limit global warming to below 2°C by the end of the century. Beyond that, the damages on marine and coastal environments will become major, and for many irreversible. However, recent national contributions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the famous "INDCs", demonstrate that the 2°C objective cannot be achieved by the present state commitments. The ocean community must therefore today join the many calls for the inclusion of a reviewing mechanism stricter national commitments.

Five objectives to focus on

That the Paris Agreement quickly makes it possible to limit warming to below 2°C is therefore the primary interest of the ocean community and the course towards which it must steer. Beyond this aspiration, shared by many, can it promote more targeted objectives? Can it hope for a strong mobilization around marine issues and envisage, for example, additional commitments from States?

No doubt, but ambition must remain measured. The Paris Agreement is not intended to organise the protection of any particular marine or terrestrial ecosystem, but should set a framework for cooperation to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Similarly, while the impact of climate change on the ocean is an additional and irrefutable argument for action, it is unlikely to prove decisive in the final hours of the negotiations, as the stakes are so high. complex and multiple.

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In this context, the ocean community could develop its intervention strategy around five main objectives, presented here by increasing level of ambition.

  • COP21 is a great opportunity to raise awareness among national delegates and civil society of the importance of the links between ocean and climate. In particular, it is an opportunity to go beyond caricatured speeches - on small islands that are about to disappear, for example - to highlight certain aspects that are often overlooked: the ocean is the planet's primary supplier of oxygen, it limits global warming and its protection is essential if it is to continue to perform these regulatory functions.

  • The climate negotiations have the advantage of adding an additional argument in the plea for the protection of the ocean: ensuring the conservation of the marine environment is indispensable for many reasons, and in particular that relating to its role as a regulator of the climate machine.

  • The ocean community must be able to formulate specific proposals on the main aspects of the climate negotiations. This requires, for example, to be able to highlight the possible role of the ocean in the energy transition, to formulate concrete ways to strengthen adaptation capacities in coastal areas, or to propose activities to be financed by the Green Fund.

  • This capacity to intervene in the fundamental debate, and therefore in the post-2015 climate agenda, could make it possible - and this is a medium-term objective - to gradually bring ocean issues into the climate sphere, scientific (via the drafting of a special IPCC report, for example), technical (within the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, the body responsible for providing advice to the COP), and then political.

  • Finally, perhaps the best that the ocean community can hope for is that COP21 will create a momentum to support all of these goals. A dynamic associating States, of course, but also NGOs, companies, researchers, etc. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is becoming an enclosure in which everyone can contribute proposals, and the ocean community must therefore find a place for itself.

All in all, we should probably not expect a real groundswell from Paris, but small waves that will gradually make the difference.

Julien RochetteCoordinator of the Oceans and Coastal Areas Programme, Iddri - Sciences Po

The original text of this article was published on The Conversation.

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