The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change

The High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLP) commissioned the HLP Expert Group to convene an international team of scientists and experts to evaluate the potential for ocean-based actions to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Their conclusions are compiled in The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change.

Building on the objective to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, the expert group sets out five areas of ocean-based climate actions, such as ocean-based renewable energy; ocean-based transport; coastal and marine ecosystems; fisheries, aquaculture, and dietary shifts; and carbon storage in the seabed. All of these can play a key role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. 

All five ocean-based climate action areas of intervention can reduce emissions by up to 4 billion tonnes of CO2 per year in 2030, and by more than 11 billion tonnes of CO2 per year in 2050. In addition, these ocean-based solutions can lead to positive human health outcomes, job creation, and economic growth.

To achieve this by 2050 will require meaningful actions in the coming years. It is important to lower emissions across terrestrial GHG sources as much as possible, as well as providing clear policy signals and making specific investment in research and development. Governments ought to take resolute political leadership in order to take advantage of the full potential of the solutions explored in the report. Strong national institutions and international institutions must work together to secure effective implementation in each country.

What is included in the five ocean-based climate actions?

  • Ocean-based renewable energy, including offshore wind and other offshore energy sources, such as wave and tidal power. 
  • Ocean-based transport, including freight and passenger shipping. 
  • Coastal and marine ecosystems, including protection and restoration of mangroves, salt marshes, seagrass beds, and seaweed, as well as aligned ecosystems such as coral reefs which are important coastal barriers to waves and storms. 
  • Fisheries, aquaculture and dietary shifts away from emission-intensive land-based protein sources (e.g., red meat) towards low carbon ocean-based protein and other sources of nutrition.  
  • Carbon storage in the seabed such as direct injection into the deep ocean, alkalinity addition, and iron fertilization are still being analysed. The implementation of these actions may require some time, as there are significant technical, economic and socio-political challenges to be solved.
    • Picture 1. Ocean-based Mitigation Options Explored in this Report and Associated Annual Mitigation Potential in 2050.Picture 1. Ocean-based Mitigation Options Explored in this Report and Associated Annual Mitigation Potential in 2050.

By Maria Paula Ar…