Action on climate change must include protection and restoration of ocean ecosystems.
California’s global leadership on ocean protection and climate change took the world stage once again at the COP24 climate negotiations today. California is now advancing the global climate effort by sharing its “ocean-climate contribution” to support the Paris Agreement.
Today, Governor Brown’s Senior Climate Advisor, Ken Alex, announced California’s ocean-climate contribution, offering a vision of how critical the ocean is to climate solutions. California’s ocean-climate contribution consists of the state’s mitigation and adaptation actions that either bolster resilience to climate change, reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, or both.
We can celebrate being able to achieve climate mitigation and adaptation while also protecting California’s iconic coast and offshore waters. Integrating ocean-climate actions into subnational and national efforts to combat climate change accomplishes two necessary objectives—meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and protecting ocean ecosystems, which sustain all life on earth.
The ocean is critical to the global fight against climate change. Yet, until very recently, the ocean’s power as the most effective buffer against climate change was ignored in international climate negotiations. The ocean has absorbed 90 percent of the heat generated by industrial-era CO2 emissions, and captures about 25 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere every year.
Healthy oceans are also critical to the resilience of human populations. Nearly half of all people on Earth live near the coast, and the ocean is a primary source of food and jobs for the world’s population. By taking steps to restore ocean health we preserve the ocean’s ability to store carbon. The ocean-climate contribution marks a sea change because it recognizes the ocean as an integral player in the global effort to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In September, California showcased the essential role of subnational leadership in combatting climate change at Global Climate Action Summit. For the first time ever, global leaders from all sectors of society recognized that oceans can and must be part of the solution to combatting climate change. California’s ocean-climate contribution builds on that momentum and shows how actions like protecting seagrasses, reducing shipping emissions, and studies to identify steps needed to ready California fisheries for climate change add to a government’s overall mitigation and adaptation efforts to address climate change.
To learn more about the link between climate and ocean health, watch NRDC’s short film, Our Ocean Planet, narrated by Sigourney Weaver. The film premiered at the Global Climate Action Summit.