COP26 – Update on Ocean Negotiations

Date: 10th November 2021

Yesterday more than 28 parties, and several blocks of parties, communicated support to the UK Presidency for an ocean outcome in the COP26 decision text. Today the draft was released and includes the elements requested to strengthen ocean action in the UNFCCC, including creating an annual ocean climate dialogue. Negotiations among parties are ongoing and likely to continue until at least Friday, when it is anticipated the COP will conclude.

Just as the ocean is essential to a functioning climate and lasting climate action, so it must be to the workings of the UNFCCC.  The COP25 decision, the Blue COP, called for an Ocean-Climate dialogue that took place in December 2020. Based on the success and recommendations that emerged from the Ocean-Climate Dialogue, many Parties came to COP26 supporting the strengthening of and inclusion of the ocean in national actions and across the UNFCCC. 

The draft text on 1/CP.26 calls for an annual-dialogue to strengthen ocean-based action, ensuring that the work to integrate ocean and climate change across the UNFCCC will continue. This means the ocean will play a role in processes related to achieving ambitious mitigation, adaptation and finance goals in the future.

A recurring ocean climate dialogue provides the opportunity to share lessons learned, challenges faced, as well as opportunities to include ocean-based climate mitigation and adaptation in national and sub-national plans, like NDCs, adaptation plans, and other sector-based decarbonization strategies. It provides a forum to discuss where to direct available finance and technical assistance in support of sustainable ocean-based solutions.

While this may be a step forward for recognizing the impacts of climate change on the ocean and the role ocean-based solutions can play to addressing the crisis, the most important thing we can do for the ocean is meet the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement. COP26 unfortunately has not mobilized the ambition we need to protect the ocean and communities who rely on it with regards to emission reduction targets or financing to address the challenges communities are already facing.   

John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate:

….When the world talks about the climate crisis, the ocean crisis must be front and center in that conversation. One way to ensure that happens will be to establish an ongoing forum for ocean issues here in Glasgow in the COP26 decision text.”

Ambassador Waldemar Coutts, Director for Environment & Ocean, Foreign Ministry, Chilean government:

Principle 1 of the Rio Declaration of 1992 called for us to put people at the center—this means delivering climate ambition to protect coastal communities, artisanal fishers and future generations. After being notably absent until the Blue COP, COP25 hosted by Chile, it’s really encouraging to see that the ocean is more fully incorporated and recognized at COP26 –– for the impact’s climate change has on the ocean and communities who rely on it, as well as for the solutions it provides.

Anna-Marie Laura, Director of Climate Policy, Ocean Conservancy:

The draft text is really all we could have asked for the ocean at this stage at COP26. It’s great to see the creation of a dedicated forum to raise the profile of sustainable ocean-based solutions, for mitigation and adaptation, and the call for their consideration across UNFCCC processes. Of course, the most important thing we can do for the ocean is to be on track to meet 1.5 degrees. COP26 has not yet achieved this or realized critical commitments of developed nations to mobilize financing, so even with this progress on ocean climate action, there is more to be done.

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