21 February 2019
High-level Conference Issues Declaration on Oceans and Climate Change
Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis
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Signatories to the Brussels Declaration on the ocean and climate change commit to continue developing, by 2020, an international legally binding instrument under the UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, and state that combating adverse climate impacts “must be in accordance with this future instrument”.

The Declaration also calls for urgent action to reduce GHGs in the international shipping sector.

19 February 2019: A high-level conference has issued a declaration on the ocean and climate change as part of the strategy developed by the Ocean Pathway process, which aims to include oceans on the formal agenda of the climate negotiations. Participants discussed the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, the role of offshore energy production and the need to reduce ship emissions.

The Conference on ‘Climate Change and Oceans Preservation’ convened on 19 February in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium’s Federal Public Service (FPS) Health organized the Conference, which welcomed over 500 participants.

On sustainable development, climate change and ocean biodiversity, the Brussels Declaration reaffirms the commitments in SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 14 (life below water), 15 (life on land) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), recognizing their interconnectivity, and expresses support to enhance ocean, climate and biodiversity-related actions. Signatories commit to continue engaging constructively in developing an international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) by 2020 and recognize that conservation and sustainable use of ocean biodiversity require tools, particularly area-based management tools (ABMT), to improve resilience to climate change. The Declaration states that combating adverse climate impacts “must be in accordance with this future instrument.”

The UN 2019 Climate Summit is an important opportunity to raise ambition for achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

The Declaration expresses “deep concern” over the findings in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), “unequivocally confirming the negative impacts of climate change, including on the ocean” as well as the findings that current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are not sufficient to meet long-term temperature goals under the Paris Agreement on climate change. The document stresses the Panel’s conclusion that immediate global action in all sectors is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. The Declaration calls for identifying opportunities in the context of the UNFCCC to help Parties protect the ocean from adverse effects of climate change, and calls on UNFCCC Parties to engage in the Ocean Pathway Partnership and the ‘Because the Ocean’ Declaration and the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification.

The Declaration further, inter alia: encourages Parties to the Paris Agreement to include actions related to the ocean in the preparation and implementation of their NDCs, adaptation communications and long-term low emission development strategies (LEDS); endorses the Talanoa Call for Action; urges all countries, non-State actors and international organizations to consider pathways to resilience and sustainable development, including options for and limits to adaptation; and calls on the international community to consider current and future sea level rise risks, effects of climate change on marine ecosystems and community livelihoods, and implications of different mitigation measures.

Signatories look forward to the UN Climate Summit in September 2019 as an “important opportunity to raise ambition” for achieving the Paris Agreement goals and call on Parties to present at the Summit their progress and future ambition and possibilities for enhanced NDCs by 2020. The Declaration urges all Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to agree on an ambitious post-2020 biodiversity framework at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15).

On renewable ocean energy and marine ecosystems, the Declaration recommends development of cost-effective renewable ocean energy with the aim of ensuring access to affordable, reliable sustainable energy for all and achieving the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. It further recommends adopting long-term visions and strategies for seas and shores in synergy with long-term LEDS. The Declaration urges continued support to the small island developing States (SIDS) Lighthouses Initiative by developing renewable ocean energy roadmaps.

On climate change and international shipping, the Declaration reaffirms that achieving the balance between emissions and removals of greenhouse gases (GHGs) requires urgent and ambitious action within the international maritime transport sector, and calls for urgent action to reduce GHGs in the international shipping sector. Recalling the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships, signatories encourage the IMO to “adopt and implement significant GHG emission reduction measures before 2023” to help ensure the Paris Agreements’ long-term temperature goals are met, and call on the IMO to adopt a revised GHG strategy by 2023. [Brussels Declaration] [FPS Press Release]

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