“Is there anyone in the negotiations representing the oceans?” The researcher from Brazil was glancing over the oceans pamphlet I had just handed her at our blue zone booth, concern hanging in her voice. She said she had read over her country’s INDCs and found specific mention of forestry, agriculture, and renewables, but no talk of Brazil’s thousands of kilometers of coastline connecting it directly to the ocean.
The short answer is no, our oceans do not have their own negotiators (despite covering 71% of our globe), but there are more oceans advocates than ever here as this Paris Agreement forms. While I wasn’t at COP21 for last week’s landmark Oceans Day and the numerous ocean-related events the Scripps Institution of Oceanography hosted, the climate-related services our oceans provide and the subsequent impacts they feel have certainly been highlighted this week. From Monday’s summarization of recommendations for including oceans during “The Importance of Addressing Oceans and Coasts in an Ambitious Agreement at the UNFCCC COP 21” to yesterday’s panel of Scripps students at the US Center, the oceans are continually popping up around the conference center.
Caption: NOAA’s Tom Di Liberto and Amanda McCarty join Scripps students Yassir Eddebbar, Natalya Gallo, Kaitlyn Lowder, and Matt Siegfried at a US Center panel highlighting current ocean and ice-related science. Photo credit: Kirk Sato, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Even more importantly, this dialogue has apparently been carried into negotiations rooms. As of yesterday’s draft, the preamble says the parties to the agreement are “Noting the needs and integrity of terrestrial ecosystems, oceans and Mother Earth.” While it is still unclear which country or countries advocated for this wording, it is likely they have had contact with Scripps’ Natalya Gallo. Natalya has been instrumental in building connections with many negotiators and ensuring they understand how they benefit from healthy oceans. While each country has slightly differing concerns, our Brazilian booth visitor knew that fish and shrimp stocks had been declining and was concerned that climate change could exacerbate these problems. The challenges facing these countries are not easy or quick to tackle, but the first step to making sure the global causes are addressed is voicing them at this COP and working to ensure they are broadly recognized in this agreement. As of now, we are thrilled about the current state of the text!