Oceans & Climate – Exploring the Nexus

Summary

The world’s climate scientists and recent extreme weather have shown that even our current worst estimates of climate scenarios are proving too optimistic[1].

While cutting emissions is the obvious approach, it is not enough. We need to spread and improve technologies to capture existing carbon from the atmosphere. We also need a much higher carbon price for carbon technology deployment to become economical. Action is also required on refrigerants, food waste, plant-rich diets, health and education[2]. But taking such initiatives will simply not be enough. We need to take care of the natural carbon tanks that exist today: namely our oceans, land and forests. Society's climate strategy must therefore incorporate nature’s critical role in emission reduction & removal.

Within this report, we specifically focus on the oceans; their ability to capture and store carbon. Our seas, one of the largest natural tanks for CO2 emissions, are being damaged by acidification due to rising temperatures, plastic and chemical pollution, overfishing, whaling, seabed mining, resource exploitation and coastal habitat destruction.

Addressing the climate crisis in a comprehensive way requires healthy, sustainable seas. Any action related to sustainable seas ought to be embedded in a global climate policy.

We agree with research recommending policymakers to:

1. Expand marine protected areas to 30% of the oceans by 2030
2. Foster sustainable, people-centered fishing
3. Legally protect coastal areas such as wetlands
4. Ban harmful practices such as bottom trawling, sea-bed mining, whale hunting, shark finning; end perverse fishing subsidies
5. End new offshore fossil fuel exploration and production, including in the arctic
6. Ensure all wastewater pollution sources are bound by regulations
7. Ensure shipping & marine industries pay-up for the damage created by their operations and to internalize environmental externalities
8. Introduce a tax for investment funds that are not effectively dealing with any of the environmental damage caused by their investee companies.

A collective effort by governments, investors, banks, insurers, and companies is required to:

11. Facilitate investment in floating kelp forests and restore mangroves, coral reefs, seaweed, and wetlands.

Private sector recommendations:

10. Investors should embed oceans in systemic engagement and policy advocacy, encouraging companies, such as Ocean 100 with the highest impacts to:
11. Reduce plastic use, improve circularity, help pay for ocean plastic cleanup
12. Cut corporate water pollution and agricultural water pollution
13. Encourage adoption of sustainable and people friendly fishing practices
14. Foster the Blue Economy through the Sustainable Ocean Principles, Science Based ocean targets and with advanced ‘sea-tech’ solutions
15. Cleanup offshore oil & gas practices; Cease new exploration & production
16. Expect and require green shipping practices and technologies

Click here to read the complete article.

1. Nature (August 2021) - Increasing probability of record-shattering climate extremes

2. DWS analysis of Project Drawdown 2021 www.drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions ** We wish to thank Matthias Kopp of WWF Germany for providing comments on a draft of this report.

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