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Beyond the Headlines: 6 COP28 Ocean Announcements You Might Have Missed

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

If you’ve been online this week, chances are you’ve been hit with a wave of articles, social media posts, and a lot of opinions about COP28. Topping the list is the announcement that after extended delayed negotiations, representatives from nearly 200 countries approved a roadmap for transitioning away from fossil fuels—a first for the climate summit. The final text of the deal stopped short of demands for language that specified a “phaseout” for oil, coal, and gas—which most environmentalists, the leaders of many nations, and the UN Secretary-General called for.

Regardless of where you stand on this, it’s worth noting that a lot more than high-level international negotiations on climate change happens at COP. Here are six ocean announcements we were paying attention to this week that you might have missed in the deluge of headlines.

BTW, if you’re wondering, “What’s a COP?” COP stands for Conference of the Parties, the annual meeting of countries that are part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This was the 28th time they’ve met, hence “COP28.” The UNFCCC is responsible for most international agreements to address climate change, including the Paris Agreement (COP21) and the Kyoto Protocol (COP3).

#1 Oceans in the COP28 Agreement

The COP28 agreement, known as the Global Stocktake, includes language related to the ocean, which ocean advocates have been fighting for. The document:

  • Notes "the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems... including the ocean"

  • "Invites Parties to preserve and restore oceans and coastal ecosystems and scale up, as appropriate, ocean-based mitigation action"

  • "Notes that ecosystem-based approaches, including ocean-based adaptation and resilience measures...can reduce a range of climate change risks and provide multiple co-benefits"

  • "Welcomes the outcomes of and the informal summary report on the 2023 ocean and climate change dialogue and encourages further strengthening of ocean-based action"

#2 Biden-Harris Administration Announces the Nation’s First Ocean Justice Strategy

The Biden-Harris Administration released the nation’s first-ever Ocean Justice Strategy, which outlines goals, principles, and practices that the federal government can adopt to advance environmental justice for communities that rely on the ocean and Great Lakes for economic, cultural, spiritual, recreational, and food security purposes. The strategy’s goals are to:

1) Embed ocean justice in federal activities and improve interagency coordination 

2) Develop a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible federal ocean workforce 

3) Enhance ocean justice through education, data, and knowledge and including Indigenous Knowledge throughout federal research and development

#3 Ocean Pavilion and the COP28 Dubai Ocean Declaration

For the second year, COP included an Ocean Pavilion to highlight the ocean’s role in combating climate change, which has been historically underappreciated. It was organized by the U.S.’s own Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was one of the many co-sponsors. The pavilion featured events, meetings, and discussions throughout the two-week climate summit.

Many pavilion partners, also led by Scripps and WHOI, issued an Ocean Declaration which called on world leaders to greatly expand and improve global ocean observations.

#4 New Green Shipping Announcements

At last year’s COP, Norway and the United States launched the Green Shipping Challenge to cut greenhouse gas emissions from maritime shipping. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry spoke at this year’s Green Shipping Challenge event, which saw multiple new announcements from countries and private partners to further the goal of reaching net zero emissions in the sector by 2050. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $7 billion investments in hydrogen hubs across the country, including for maritime decarbonization. 

#5 More Than $250 Million for Ocean-Based Climate Solutions

With goals to supercharge ocean-based climate solutions, a coalition of philanthropic funders announced more than $250 million for the new Ocean Resilience and Climate Alliance (ORCA). ORCA will focus on how philanthropy can play a leading role in unlocking capital to help scale ocean-based climate solutions, including offshore wind development, decarbonizing the shipping industry, safeguarding the Arctic, bolstering strategic ocean diplomacy, community-led action in the Global South, advancing ocean carbon research, and expanding habitat restoration and conservation efforts to enhance carbon capture. 

#6 Ocean Breakthroughs Initiative Debut at COP

The Ocean Breakthroughs Initiative launched in the run-up to COP28. The initiative revolves around transformative pathways to achieve a healthy and productive ocean by 2050. These pathways — which cover five key ocean sectors: marine conservation, aquatic food, shipping, ocean renewable energy, and coastal tourism — identify objectives and targets that could deliver a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions via ocean-climate solutions in 2050. Ocean Breakthroughs is also rooted in the Blue Ambition Loop, a report on non-state-actor progress towards ocean-based climate actions.

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