The next Administration and Congress will have an enormous responsibility. In the wake of the pandemic and its economic fallout—and following years of environmental rollbacks—they need to look beyond an economic reset and toward a sustainable future, setting the country on a steep trajectory to phase out greenhouse gas pollution by midcentury. The power of the ocean can support this work in two ways: by activating ocean communities and by adding ocean solutions to the portfolio of climate action.
First, ocean communities—from nongovernmental organizations and ocean industries to coastal community organizations and individual ocean advocates—are increasingly poised to mobilize behind the suite of policies necessary to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions no later than 2050. With no single panacea for the climate crisis, what the ocean needs is not an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy but an all-of-the-above climate strategy with policies to decarbonize sectors from transportation to electricity; provide financing to develop sustainable negative emissions technologies; protect and restore natural carbon sinks; and promote justice for communities that are on the front lines of climate impacts and affected by the transition to a clean economy.
Second, the ocean is a source of sustainable—and often overlooked—climate solutions. The Administration and Congress should adopt an ocean-smart climate strategy that aims to maximize ocean-based mitigation measures—such as decarbonizing the shipping sector and protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems that sequester carbon—as well as adaptation measures that increase the resilience of frontline communities and ecosystems to unavoidable ocean-climate impacts.
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