What is Our Ocean’s Role in the Transition to Clean Energy?

Ocean Conservancy at the Annual International Renewable Energy Agency Assembly

Clean ocean energy solutions are critical to reducing emissions and averting the climate crisis. Climate change is the single greatest threat our ocean faces. It puts the wildlife and communities that depend on the ocean at risk through impacts like ocean acidification, sea level rise and temperature changes. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, fossil fuel production accounts for 35% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, it is crucial to rapidly transition from the production and use of fossil fuels to sustainable renewable energy sources to reach our global climate goals so we can leave a habitable planet for future generations.

For the first time, Ocean Conservancy attended the annual International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly to help advance a just clean-energy transition. We were there to promote clean ocean energy and ensure that the deployment of marine renewables happens responsibly with the benefits equitably distributed. This January, we joined leaders from around the world in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), to outline the steps needed over the coming years to halve emissions by 2030, achieve sustainable development goals and meet global climate commitments. 

The theme of this year’s Assembly, “World Energy Transitions – The Global Stocktake,” sought to identify priorities that should be featured and addressed at the UN Climate Conference- Conference of Parties 28 (COP28) later this year in UAE, where the first official stocktake of progress towards the Paris agreement will be presented as well as priority actions needed over the next few years. The discussion highlighted that the world is not on track to reach climate and development goals, underscoring the need for an ambitious and just clean energy transition.

On the first day of the IRENA Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres made an impassioned case for renewables as the only path forward to avert climate catastrophe and outlined his five-point Energy Plan for a just energy transition. Offshore wind energy is a crucial piece of the renewable energy mix. It has the potential to provide enough energy to power the world more than four times over and play a significant role in helping to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goals of reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. As a clean and renewable energy source, offshore wind can help reduce dependence on fossil fuels, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and protect marine ecosystems by reducing the need for oil and gas exploration and production. Collaboration among governments, private sector actors, international organizations and conservation stakeholders is pivotal to fully realizing opportunities of offshore wind and accelerating its responsible deployment.

A side event at the Assembly Plenary highlighted the Global Offshore Wind Alliance (GOWA), founded by Denmark, IRENA and Global Wind Energy Council at COP27. The GOWA co-chairs shared how they will work to promote offshore wind amongst governments and other public and private stakeholders to support the creation of policy frameworks and make the industry more efficient and sustainable. They also discussed the importance of establishing an international community of practice to drive action on offshore wind deployment as a key strategy to combat climate change. In advance of the GOWA plenary session, Ocean Conservancy hosted a reception for countries that have championed ocean-based climate action. Denmark’s Climate Ambassador Tomas Christensen spoke at the reception on how the GOWA could help create political momentum to drive action and share best practices to ensure an effective, cost-efficient, sustainable and just transition to offshore wind.

A panel speaks at the renewable energy event

Ocean Conservancy supports a responsible expansion of offshore wind energy as an essential element of the renewable energy mix needed to reach a clean energy future and address the climate crisis. However, its deployment must be done in an equitable manner and in a way that first avoids, then minimizes, marine life and habitat impact. Clean ocean energy solutions must be deployed in the context of integrated ocean planning. This will ensure the full scope of impacts and benefits for marine ecosystems and coastal communities are considered in decision-making. 

It is indeed possible to strive towards transformative change in climate and energy strategies and reduction of the impacts of ocean energy on the marine environment. The key will be ramping up our clean energy solutions and simultaneously and aggressively moving away from polluting fossil fuels. Ending fossil-fuel subsidies, stopping new oil and gas exploration and responsibly decommissioning offshore drilling operations are all as important as advancing the deployment of clean energy. Our goal of protecting the ocean must involve utilizing its vast potential for clean energy to mitigate climate change and prevent the most harmful impacts of global warming on both the ocean and the rest of the planet.

Browse Topics
Our work is focused on solving some of the greatest threats facing our ocean today. We bring people, science and policy together to champion innovative solutions and fight for a sustainable ocean.
Read more
View Current Posts
Back to Top Up Arrow