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Confronting Climate Change

Taking the ocean into account is critical for successfully addressing climate change, and addressing climate change is critical for the future of the ocean


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Elements of a Blue-Green Foreign Policy

Advancing ocean-climate diplomacy could be an early success for the next U.S. Administration that seeks to lead the international climate effort. This brief presents several opportunities to create a “blue-green” foreign policy.

Read Elements of a Blue-Green Foreign Policy here. 

For the next U.S. Administration, rejoining the Paris Agreement should be the first step of rebuilding an effective international climate policy. In addition, the Administration can be expected to develop a realistic yet ambitious emissions reduction target for 2030, as well as a longer-term strategy that sets the country on a path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. It will also need to reassert U.S. leadership in the global fight against climate change, a challenge that has increased over the past few years given the severity of the scientific warnings, the fraying of U.S. diplomatic relationships, and, most recently, the need to sustainably build back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

One significant and achievable “win” for the next Administration would be to more fully integrate ocean issues into global efforts to combat climate change. Ocean and climate issues are inseparable. Through effects such as ocean warming and acidification, climate change is devastating ocean ecosystems and the communities and economies that rely on their health. At the same time, the ocean is a source of climate solutions, from reducing shipping emissions and scaling up offshore renewable energy to establishing climate-smart marine-protected areas and creating natural infrastructure to protect against sea-level rise.

There are a number of avenues for the United States to advance ocean-climate action on the international stage. This brief focuses on four key opportunities:

  • actively working to ensure that the international climate regime takes due account of ocean issues going forward;
  • undertaking ocean-specific climate commitments;
  • driving the decarbonization of shipping; and
  • creating/steering regional coalitions and partnerships that advance ocean-climate stewardship.

It goes without saying that the most important step that the international community could take for the health of the ocean is to reduce greenhouse gases on an economy-wide basis, particularly carbon dioxide, which drives both ocean warming and acidification. This must remain the first priority of ocean-smart climate policy. There are two other priorities, however, which are complementary: a) implementing sustainable ocean-based mitigation solutions as part of the full suite of mitigation measures necessary for economy-wide decarbonization and b) bolstering the resilience of ecosystems and communities on the front lines of the ocean-climate crisis. Each of the opportunities in this brief advance one or more of these priorities.

Read Elements of a Blue-Green Foreign Policy here. 

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