As part of a series of events supporting the UN Climate Action Summit and Climate Week in New York, the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification (Ocean Acidification Alliance) is calling for national and subnational action to protect oceans from the impacts of rising carbon emissions.
As a co-founder of the OA Alliance, Gov. Jay Inslee headlined the event by giving opening remarks and sharing his reaction to a recent IPCC special report, saying the leaders here are taking action to address climate impacts on ocean resources.
“Washington state has already experienced the ravages of climate change and it is impacting the health of our ocean, our economy, and our communities," said Gov. Jay Inslee, a founding member of the Ocean Acidification Alliance. "Up and down the coast of our state, ocean acidification has damaged shellfish aquaculture production, while marine heat waves and harmful algal blooms threaten to cripple fisheries, tourism and wildlife. Our decisions matter and it is critical we act fast to reduce carbon pollution. In Washington, we aren’t waiting to act – we are harnessing the power of collective action and leadership through the Ocean Acidification Alliance. We are all in this together.”
Press release from International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification is below.
In Response to the IPCC Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification Brings Together Governments and Outlines Policy Frameworks for Taking Action
New York, NY–Today’s release of the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in Changing Climate emphasized that climate change is already having major impacts on our ocean, making our ocean warmer, more acidic, more stratified and oxygen depleted. From oyster die-offs to coral reef bleaching to marine heat waves and harmful algal blooms, coastal communities around the world are feeling the effects on fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and marine ecosystems.
“In less than a decade, our characterization of ocean acidification evolved from a potential adverse effect of climate change to a visible threat for coastal communities, with dire socioeconomic consequences for their livelihoods and sustainable development,” said H.E. Ms. Isabelle Picco, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations. “The SROCC confirms today what scientists already highlighted more than ten years ago, in the 2008 Monaco Declaration. Only through reduction of emissions, as well as ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions, will we be able to tackle this immense challenge and support coastal communities who are the first victims. We believe, in this regard, that the UN Decade for Ocean Science will be a key enabler.”
The report warns that ocean acidification is “virtually certain” to continue to be exacerbated by carbon emissions. The future health of our ocean, ecosystems and communities will be affected by our global emissions with a high emissions path posing the most significant risks for severe and large changes and testing the limits of human adaptation. Following a low emissions pathway now significantly lessens these future climate change impacts.
Government-initiatives like the Ocean Acidification Alliance are engaging national and subnational governments from across the globe to join forces and address ocean acidification, elevate the importance of the ocean in addressing climate change and increase the urgency for climate action.
Alliance government members are advancing policy solutions they have developed within their regions and across climate agreement frameworks such as through Ocean Acidification (OA) Action Plans. The SROCC identified the need for such regional cooperation and integration into policy frameworks as an essential component to effective responses. Government members of the Alliance are also working to support coastal communities impacted by ocean acidification by conducting regional vulnerability assessments, piloting the carbon sequestration potential of seagrass, kelp or mangroves, or working with resources managers to better incorporate ocean acidification impacts into existing adaptation plans.
Since its launch in 2016, the Ocean Acidification Alliance has grown to over 80 members including a mix of 13 national, 10 state, four municipal, and seven sovereign, tribal, indigenous, and first nation governments along with many dedicated affiliate partners such as NGOs, industry leaders, and local academia. The Alliance registered a commitment at the UN Oceans Conference in 2017 to support the development of 15 OA Action Plans by the end of 2019 and is well on pace to meet that goal.
For example, New Zealand is working to protect critical aquaculture industries like the Green-Lipped Mussel through strategies that help to mitigate OA impacts on mussel farms through waste shell dissolution, aeration techniques, and identifying resilient families and using stocks from selective breeding.
“As a government member of the Ocean Acidification Alliance, New Zealand has increased international collaboration to strengthen resilience and build awareness of this emerging threat to the ocean,” said Ms Stephanie Lee, Special Adviser on Climate Change, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “We have been working with experts within New Zealand to develop our own action plan. We’re proud to champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter’s Ocean Acidification Action Group, which has convened 17 Commonwealth countries from African, Caribbean and Pacific regions in an ocean acidification science and policy focused workshop. We also continue to work closely with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme to strengthen coastal communities’ resilience against ocean acidification in Fiji, Tokelau and Kiribati.”
California has identified ocean acidification as a priority issue for over 10 years, with the west coast of North America experiencing some of the earliest and most severe changes in ocean chemistry. Furthermore, the IPCC report identifies ocean acidification and oxygen loss as an observed impact to the California current upwelling system, resulting in altered ecosystem structure with direct impacts to fisheries, communities, and economy. The impacts of ocean acidification have already been felt along the coast and will continue to intensify. California is actively working to mitigate and adapt to the ocean impacts of climate change with the development of the State of California Ocean Acidification Action Plan – a policy and management action plan that provides a roadmap for the State of California to take tractable and strategic actions and make targeted investments to reduce and prepare for the impacts of OA.
“California is witnessing first-hand the effects of climate change on our ocean and coast and the people who rely on it. The impacts of ocean acidification threaten our fisheries, communities, and ecosystems. Inaction is not an option, which is why we are committed to a zero-carbon emissions economy that will stem the tide of alarming climate-related changes in our oceans. We are committed to implementing California’s Ocean Acidification Action Plan to adapt and build resiliency against existing climate change threats,” said Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary for Natural Resources.
Because ocean acidification is a multi-sectoral issue and is relevant to climate mitigation and adaptation, ocean and land management, food security, reef resilience, aquaculture and fisheries, it is essential that there is a high-level of coordination between ocean and climate experts, negotiators and policy implementers.
By explicitly incorporating ocean acidification across climate and ocean policy frameworks, governments have an increased ability to:
- Develop a more comprehensive stock take of regional vulnerabilities and risks associated with climate and ocean acidification related impacts, including effects of multiple stressors like warming and loss of oxygen.
- Address root causes through effective policies and integrate and align efforts across sectors.
- Understand local variability and trends in ocean and coastal and chemistry.
- Prioritize studies to examine adaptive capacity of critical species and resources.
- Strengthen capacity to improve local management of trends and impacts.
- Strengthen funding opportunities for ocean acidification-related mitigation, science, adaptation and resilience building projects.
- Increase awareness of impacts and solutions among interest groups, decision-makers and the public.
“Government-led initiatives like the Ocean Acidification Alliance are vital to helping governments respond to the findings within the IPCC Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate and to implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14,” said UN’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson. “The health of the ocean is crucial to a sustainable future for humanity and the well-being of life on this planet.”