COP23 Moves the Oceans from the Blue Zone to the Green Zone

This post is part of a series of blogs written by Vermont Law School students visiting Bonn, Germany as part of the Vermont Law School COP 23/CMP13 Observer Delegation.


By Val Fajardo, 3L Student at Vermont Law School.

November 11, 2017

Oceans Action Day. The one day in a climate change conference where the oceans become the center of discussion. Considering that 75% of the Earth’s surface is composed of oceans and that oceans absorb 25% of carbon dioxide emissions and 90% of heat associated with climate change, it was a wonder that the UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties did not put much emphasis on oceans until present. But, now it has and it ended with a bang.

After a full day of side events on Resilience of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Blue Carbon, and Ecosystem-based Adaptation in Ocean and Coastal Zones, among other things, the Oceans Action Day at COP23 concluded with four more countries signing the Because The Ocean” Declaration. Today, the UK, Finland, Honduras, and Romania signed the declaration, committing themselves to work on three common objectives: A Special Report on the Ocean by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, the U.N.Sustainable Development Goals Conference in Fiji in June 2017, and the elaboration of an ocean action plan under the UNFCCC. These countries, along with 22 others, also commit themselves to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development. This Declaration stems from all Parties’ obligation under the UNFCCC to “promote sustainable management, and promote and cooperate in the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate.”

Five countries, in the face of increasingly devastating hurricanes, do not seem much in terms of number. However, they demonstrate that Parties under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement are aware that oceans are an integral part of addressing the effects of global climate change. It would seem that Fiji has delivered, at least through COP 23, on its promise to emphasize the importance of oceans. Hopefully, this new energy will translate into nations moving “further, faster together.”