The following article is part of an Eco-Perspective special in which the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law is collaborating with the VLS COP22 Observer Delegation
By Roxana-Andreea Mastor
In a press briefing [on November 8th], Natalya Gallo and Dr. Lisa Levin from the Scripps Institutions of Oceanography, USCD, Julio Cordano on behalf of Chile and Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles Ambassador talked about the importance of including oceans and marine ecosystems into the Parties NDCs. Natalya Gallo stated that out of the 161 INDC communicated by the Parties by June 2015, 112 contained references to oceans, 14 included costal zones while the rest did not contain any reference to oceans and marine ecosystems. The oceans are mostly included in the INDCs as part of the adaptation, mitigation or as a climate change marine risk. Also, most attention is given to ocean warming while ocean oxygen loss, ocean acidification receives little to no attention. Mangroves and coral reefs were almost always included. In terms of parties, the Annex I parties did not include oceans in their INDCs while the SIDS were leading the path in this area. The factors that influenced whether oceans were included in the parties INDC varied from percentage of population living in low lying areas to large exclusive economic zones areas and development status of the respective countries.
Julio Cordano on behalf of Chile emphasized the implementation gap now present in the Paris Agreement. Although the oceans are included in the Paris Agreement, there has been no implementation endeavor. Therefore, he believes that any future work should be built upon the NDCs as a building block of the Paris Agreement, and more specifically by proposing guidelines that can be used by the Parties. However, he acknowledges that in an ideal world of negotiation this would be the case, but as the NDCs were a compromised formulation as first proposed, there is still a delicate discussion on what to include, as the inclusion of too many sectors and perspectives may wash down on the content of the NDCs and lead to ineffective mitigation action. There is also a lot of mistrust on opening the scope of NDCs, many parties invoking the national character of the NDCs and the flexibility they are entitled to when defining them. Also, there is the fear that opening the discussion with respect to oceans would raise the question of whether the NDCs should include other sectors such as energy. Following last year Because the Ocean Declaration, this year, Chile plans to launch a second declaration on 14th of November, building upon the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and on how parties can use the potential of adaptation and mitigation in the ocean.
Dr. Lisa Levin talked about the ocean research needs, as countries specifically provided in their INDCs the need for additional research in the following areas: sea level rise and coastal zone monitoring; fisheries; blue carbon; climate observation system; biodiversity research; oceanography and climate; ocean training and capacity building/academic collaboration. The research needs can be addressed by looking at the research infrastructure and the available funds in place today, such as the GEF and the Ocean Sustainability Bank.
Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles Ambassador for Climate Change and SIDS Issues, recognized that it is natural for them to include oceans in their NDCs. However, they recognize that there is a lack of research, as they do not have an accurate and complete overview, among others, on the impacts of climate change and the marine species that need protection. That is why, the University of Seychelles started a research institute called the Blue Economy Research Institute to advance their knowledge and have access to accurate and complete information that can help them put forward an ambitious NDC. They also decided to be an example and lead the way by starting reviewing and upscaling their NDCs so as to achieve the 1,5°C goal.
We can only hope that at future APA meetings, the Paris Agreement will act as a spokesperson for the oceans and marine ecosystems, as currently they do not have one.