Championing Ocean Climate Action at COP28

We’re on a mission to give the ocean a voice in climate negotiations

Responding to the climate crisis is undeniably urgent. Rising temperatures are disrupting ecosystems around the world, with 2023 witnessing some of the most extreme weather events to date, including the hottest day and month ever recorded and drastically reduced Antarctic ice. The planet has accumulated as much heat in the past 15 years as it did in the previous 45 years; the ocean has absorbed the majority of this excess heat. The global average sea surface temperature hit an all-time record high in July and these unprecedented ocean temperatures show that the ocean is heating up more rapidly than experts previously realized—posing a greater risk for sea-level rise, extreme weather and the loss of marine ecosystems. Scientists have consistently warned that the continued burning of fossil fuels is heating the planet, including the ocean. 

Amid this backdrop, Ocean Conservancy delegation is heading to the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai to partake in negotiations working to address these critical issues. This year’s conference is particularly significant because it will mark the completion of the first “Global Stocktake”—a comprehensive evaluation of the progress made globally in combating climate change since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. The UN’s synthesis report from September 2023 indicates that, despite some advancements, the world is still woefully offtrack in reducing emissions sufficiently to maintain safe temperature levels. And as it currently stands, ocean and ocean-based climate solutions are largely absent from the Global Stocktake. 

Now is a critical time for our ocean, which has long protected us from the worst impacts of climate change by absorbing much of the excess heat produced by the continued burning of fossil fuels. Ocean Conservancy will be championing the inclusion of ocean-based climate solutions in national climate strategies, with an emphasis on clean ocean energy as a crucial ocean-based climate mitigation solution by advocating for a responsible, rapid and just transition to clean ocean energy. This includes advancing the deployment of offshore wind with a net-positive impact on biodiversity, promoting the phase-out of offshore fossil fuels and urging countries to align reducing plastic pollution and combating climate change.

COP28 represents a crucial juncture for global leaders, policymakers and industry. The conference presents an opportunity for decisionmakers to commit to bold actions, such as phasing out fossil fuels, funding climate resilience in vulnerable countries and accelerating clean energy production. Additionally, they must demonstrate accountability for previous climate commitments. Their response to the findings of the Global Stocktake will be instrumental in determining whether the world effectively confronts the climate crisis or continues to suffer the consequences of inaction. 

Sea lions on ice

As an ocean conservation organization preparing to attend COP28, the context framing this year’s Presidency is significant. The United Arab Emirates, known for its substantial oil and gas industry, is hosting COP28 and has positioned itself as a proactive nation on climate action. It was the first in the Gulf region to set a 2050 net zero goal and announced absolute emission cuts at COP27. However, the UAE’s strategy includes a notable expansion of oil and gas production, at odds with the goals of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius​​.

Given this scenario, the presence of conservation organizations like ours at COP28 is vital to ensure that ocean health is prioritized during climate discussions, especially in a setting where the host country is balancing its role as a major oil producer with its commitments to climate action. Being at the table allows us to influence international policy negotiations, ensuring that ocean conservation and ocean-based climate solutions become a priority in national climate action plans. Our goal is to ensure the ocean is better included in the Global Stocktake process, that there is increased ambition to phase out fossil fuels and reduce the use of petrochemicals such as plastics, and a commitment to finance clean ocean energy deployment in developing countries. 

We are ocean diplomats on a mission to ensure the ocean and coastal communities have a voice at climate negotiations. Our team will collaborate with partners to address pressing ocean issues and propose equitable climate solutions in the lead-up to, during and after COP28. You can find us at these events on the ground. Follow our newsroom and blog for more updates as the weeks continue. 

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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.
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