Photo: Sonia Bejarano

27/11/2023 | The Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) has joined forces with the partners of the Ocean Pavilion at COP28 and associated stakeholders who are calling on world leaders to recognize the importance of the ocean in climate and support efforts to expand and improve ocean observations worldwide, including expanding coverage in under-observed regions.

ZMT scientific director Prof Raimund Bleischwitz has signed the COP28 Dubai Ocean Declaration on behalf of the institute. “The ocean is our partner in the fight against climate change, but at the same time it is greatly impacted by changes resulting from climate change. Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves or seagrass beds are important nature-based solutions when it comes to carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere. ZMT supports the ocean declaration expecting it pushes this year’s COP towards proper standards with monitoring, verification and enforcement for mangrove reforestation with benefits for coastal communities. Those activities will need to be aligned with biodiversity goals.”

The Declaration comes ahead of the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) which is held in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) from November 30 to December 12. The signatories emphasize the need for ocean science and observation as critical for understanding ongoing global climate changes. More than 40 international ocean science, policy, and philanthropic organizations have signed the COP28 Dubai Ocean Declaration to date.

The ocean plays a critical role in regulating Earth’s climate and has absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat and almost 30% of the excess carbon dioxide caused by human activity. Consequences of these changes include extreme weather events, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, coral reef mortality, and an increase in low-oxygen zones. Despite this, international investment in ocean observing systems has not kept pace with the need for critical information to guide decision-making. As a result, a central theme of the COP28 Dubai Ocean Declaration is a call on world leaders to “support and foster efforts to greatly expand and improve ocean observations worldwide.”

About the COP28 Dubai Ocean Declaration

The COP28 Dubai Ocean Declaration calls on the parties of the UN Climate Conference to adopt measures that enhance protections of the ocean and include several key points into the two-week long negotiations. According to the Declaration, “As the largest, most dynamic reservoir of carbon in Earth’s climate system, the ocean can and must play a central role in efforts to achieve net-negative emissions and meet the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement. As a critical part of other life-sustaining planetary processes, the ocean must also be protected from continued anthropogenic change, including any climate mitigation efforts and especially as the rapidly changing Earth system becomes less predictable.”

The Declaration underscores the call for drastic cuts of greenhouse gas emissions and immediate concrete efforts to curb other human-induced damages to the ocean, such as overfishing, habitat destruction, and marine pollution, in addition to advancing ocean-based solutions.

Specific efforts spelled out in the COP28 Dubai Ocean Declaration include:

  • Improve global stocktake estimates and measures of progress towards goals laid out in the Paris Agreement by providing better measures of carbon fluxes through the ocean and a more comprehensive view of Earth’s ocean-climate system.
  • Implement robust, cooperative environmental monitoring, reporting, and verification of new and emerging ocean-based carbon dioxide removal strategies to ensure measurable progress towards net-negative emissions while also protecting critical ocean ecosystems.
  • Expand observing capabilities to measure the widest possible suite of essential climate and biological variables to better understand and address the impacts of climate change on the distribution of ocean life, marine ecosystem health, biomass, and biodiversity.
  • Develop capacity among island nations and developing countries and refine methods to account for contributions by the ocean’s natural functions and the blue economy to climate stabilization through nationally determined contributions and national adaptation plans.