High Level Panel Finds Nature-Based Interventions Represent “Best Combination” of Carbon Mitigation, Co-Benefits
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The High Level Panel for the Sustainable Ocean Economy assessed the mitigation potential of ocean-based activities in five areas: renewable energy, ocean-based transport, food production, coastal and marine ecosystems, and carbon storage in the seabed.

The Panel’s report finds that ocean-based mitigation options have the potential to reduce global GHG emissions by up to 21% on a 1.5°C pathway by 2050, a reduction amount larger than annual emissions from all current coal fired power plants worldwide.

Panel issued an urgent ‘Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action’ to inspire political commitments, business partnerships and investments to scale up and accelerate action in six key areas.

26 September 2019: The Expert Group of the High Level Panel for the Sustainable Ocean Economy released a report on the role of ocean-based solutions in tackling climate change. The report estimates ocean-based mitigation options have the potential to reduce the emissions gap by up to 21% on a 1.5°C pathway and by approximately 25% on a 2°C degree pathway, by 2050.

In 2018, Heads of State and Government formed the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy in recognition of the challenges facing the world’s oceans, including climate change, marine pollution, overfishing and habitat loss, and the impact of these challenges on the potential for achieving the SDGs. The Panel aims to catalyze and support solutions for ocean health and wealth across governance, policy, technology and finance and focused on the protection of, production from and investment in the ocean to demonstrate how a transition to a sustainable ocean economy is critical to achieving SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 7 (clean and affordable energy for all), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals).

The report, titled ‘The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action,’ assesses the mitigation potential of ocean-based activities in five areas: renewable energy, ocean-based transport, food production, coastal and marine ecosystems, and carbon storage in the seabed. In addition, the report analyzes the wider benefits to society of each area, beyond mitigation, and the enabling policy measures and research needed for success in each area.

Ocean-based renewable energy production offers the greatest potential for reducing GHG emissions and delivering clean energy. The report identifies the expansion of floating wind and solar facilities as “exciting frontiers”. When broader environmental and social well-being considerations are incorporated, nature-based interventions like protection and restoration of mangroves, seagrass and salt marshes offer the best combination of carbon mitigation and additional co-benefits.

Overall, the report finds that ocean-based mitigation options have the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by nearly 4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in 2030 and by more than 11 billion tonnes per year in 2050, compared with projected business-as-usual emissions. The report underscores that “reductions of this magnitude are larger than the emissions from all current coal fired power plants worldwide” and more than China’s total emissions in 2014.

The report emphasizes that four of the ocean-based climate actions are “ready to be implemented today.” The fifth option, carbon storage in the seabed, currently faces economic, sociopolitical and technical challenges that need to be further explored before it can be deployed at the scale needed to make a substantive contribution to climate mitigation. The report also cautions that ocean-based mitigation options need to be accompanied by reductions in terrestrial GHG sources, including carbon sequestration and storage in forests and other natural systems and through efforts to phase out fossil fuels and create sustainable food systems.

High Level Panel co-chair and Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, said the report “signals an exciting new pathway to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.” She said the report shows that ocean-based climate action, combined with land-based emissions cuts, “could provide a lifeline for the economies, food sources, coastal communities and sea life at the frontline of climate disruption.” High Level Panel co-chair and President of the Republic of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, Jr., said the solutions offered by the Panel “show how we need to work with, and not against the ocean.” He said implementing these actions “will protect the most vulnerable nations, like ours, from the full force of the climate crisis” and underscored that such untapped potential “provides hope” that humanity must seize.

The Panel presented their findings at an event during Climate Week NYC. At the event, the Panel issued an urgent ‘Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action’ to inspire political commitments, business partnerships and investments to scale up and accelerate action in six key areas. To help achieve the Paris Agreement on climate change and the SDGs, the Panel urges all actors to join them in accelerating progress on the following ocean-based climate actions: investing in nature-based climate solutions; harnessing ocean-based renewable energy; decarbonizing ocean industries; securing sustainable food for the future; advancing the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), including through reducing barriers for CCS below the seabed and mapping the storage potential of the sub-seabed geological formations; and expanding ocean observation and research.

In response to the Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action, Panel members and other organizations have announced early action and ocean climate commitments. These commitments range from demonstration projects on marine renewable energy to a three-year initiative by the Pew Charitable Trust to support countries to incorporate coastal wetlands and coral reefs into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. [Panel Press Release] [Publication: The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action] [Panel Webpage] [WRI Press Release] [Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action] [Event Webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Panel Launch]


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