8 June - in it for the oceans

08 June 2010 | News story

On World Oceans Day, IUCN Marine Programme Officer Dorothee Herr highlights the importance of marine issues in the climate debate, and her hope to raise the stakes.

The last week and a half I have been running up and down the corridors of the Maritim Hotel and attended many meetings with one objective: achieving more visibility and action on ocean-related climate change issues. The ocean covers more than 70% of our planet; it drives our climate and is heavily impacted by climate change. Despite its crucial role, not enough attention is given on the one hand to the impacts on our coastal and marine environments and on the other hand to the solutions marine and coastal ecosystems offer for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Ocean acidification, for example, is currently not formally addressed or taken into account in the current negotiations. Positive developments however are happening in related processes. Last week’s research dialogue in the scientific and technological body (SBSTA) was surprisingly very vocal on this issue, from both the side of international research organizations which presented their latest findings and that of Parties to the UNFCCC which expressed their concerns and interest in further research and debate on this issue. When I attended the same meeting last year, ocean acidification was only mentioned on the sideline. So witnessing the attention which is given to ocean acidification in this research dialogue, I think we are on the right track.

Additionally it is very positive to see how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is planning to tackle ocean acidification and more broadly coastal, marine and open ocean issues in the next assessment report. However in the meantime, more needs to be done to take ocean acidification out of the solely research-based discussions and into the policy discussions.

So what I am doing now in Bonn is mainly tailing every person I see who shows some interest in or is working on ocean related issues both from country delegations and the NGO crowd. Since I started being involved in the UNFCCC process last year I am trying to establish a network of ocean contacts within the UNFCCC family and define concrete entry points for ocean issues to be raised and implemented. It is great to experience that faces become more familiar, coffee and lunch meetings more regular and discussions more fruitful. I feel the interest for the ocean is slowly but steady growing. But we are far from where we should be. This can only be the beginning.