At the White House Conservation in Action Summit on Tuesday, March 21, the Biden Administration released the first-ever Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP), a roadmap for the federal government’s work to enhance the resilience of ocean ecosystems, mitigate climate impacts, promote environmental justice, and support healthy communities and a sustainable ocean economy.
The OCAP was developed by the Ocean Policy Committee, which is co-chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), to support three overarching goals:
Create a carbon-neutral future without harmful emissions that cause climate change
Accelerate nature-based solutions to protect and support natural coastal and ocean systems that store greenhouse gasses, reduce the climate threat, and protect communities and ecosystems against unavoidable changes
Enhance community resilience to ocean change by developing ocean-based solutions that help communities adapt and thrive in our changing climate
The plan includes a host of initiatives and over 200 near-term actions related to offshore wind and marine energy, marine protected areas, green maritime shipping, blue carbon and carbon sequestration, climate ready fisheries, habitat restoration, coastal resilience, and other focus areas. Also highlighted are actions to support ocean research, observation, modeling, and forecasting.
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Arati Prabhakar and CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory note that many important ocean research, policy, and management actions across the federal government are not included in the plan. “This plan should not be viewed as an exhaustive list of ocean activities, but rather a plan focused specifically on ocean climate action,” they said in an introductory letter. “We have a narrow moment to pursue action in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis and to seize the opportunities that tackling climate change presents.”
Actions that did make the cut seek to address the OCAP’s six cross-cutting principles:
Promote ocean health and stewardship
Advance environmental justice
Engage with Tribal nations and indigenous peoples
Strengthen outreach and engagement
Accelerate and use U.S. science and knowledge
Facilitate interagency coordination and strategic planning across the federal government
The content in this plan won’t come as a surprise to those who have been following the administration’s ocean priorities. We expect to see federal agencies work to implement the actions identified in the OCAP—some of which are already underway—and we will continue to keep our clients informed.