Ocean based solutions for climate action

What is the potential of the ocean and its ecosystems to reduce the causes of climate change and its impacts?

The Beam
The Beam
Dec 8, 2019 · 4 min read
Copyrights: Marek Okon

“The world’s ocean and cryosphere have been taking the heat from climate change for decades and the consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe” says Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of the IPCC. The global ocean is warming, acidifying and losing oxygen, and sea level is rising. As a result, an important number of species and ecosystems — think coral reefs, seagrass meadows and kelp forests — are endangered. The situation will only worsen by the end of this decade, even if we manage to fully reach the goals of the Paris Agreement on time.

“We are in a very critical period and we are not seeing policy moving towards reducing emissions” says Pörtner. Experts and scientists here at COP25 in Madrid stress that scaling up of efforts towards ambitious mitigation and adaptation is imperative. The ocean is a key element of our life support system and provides many services. Coastal and marine ecosystems act as sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases. By contributing to the negative emission efforts, the global ocean offers opportunities to reduce the causes and consequences of climate change, both globally and locally. That is if great efforts are made to conserve and protect the ocean ecosystems.

Pörtner says, “today, ocean use is unsustainable”, and ocean-based measures for mitigation and adaptation have received relatively little attention in climate discussions. Fortunately, the science community has come up with policy recommendations about ocean-based measures to enhance global mitigation and local coastal adaptation. Aimed at supporting climate policies, these measures are meant to address the causes of climate change, support biological and ecological adaptation, enhance societal adaptation and solar radiation management.

“Marine renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, pollution reduction, community based adaptation, conservation, restoring and enhancing habitats, restoring and increasing coastal vegetation, relocating and diversifying economic activities, relocating people, enhancing open ocean productivity, are few examples of those ocean-based measures,” says Jean-Pierre Gattuso, Senior Research Scientist at CNRS.

“These ocean-related measures should not be considered as a substitute for climate mitigation on land, which must also be strongly pursued for the benefit of the atmosphere as well as the ocean,” explains the experts.

Costa Rica wants to place itself as a leader in ocean protection

Forest, oceans, mangroves are part of those nature-based solutions. And in Costa Rica, mangroves are a key elements of the decarbonisation plan. “We need to talk about blue economy. We need to emphasizes why people need to protect these mangroves. And we cannot talk about a blue economy if we don’t recognize the importance of those ecosystems for the people,” explains the minister.

Nature-based solutions come in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Policies relating to biodiversity must recognize the major role of the ocean in the face of the climate crisis and global changes, and the Ocean and Climate Platform has worked on a set of policy recommendations for a healthy ocean. On mitigation, Picourt explains the importance of reducing GHG emissions to maintain marine life’s good health. It is the only option to mitigate ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, sea level rise, impacts of extreme weather events and destruction of particularly sensitive ecosystems, such as coral reefs. The organisation recommends the development of marine renewable energy while preserving ocean biodiversity.

“Science is absolutely crucial. We need to invest more and enhance scientific research and we need to increase scientific collaboration, not only between countries but between scientific disciplines as well” adds the expert. More recommendations on adaptation of marine ecosystems and vulnerable communities to climate change and on sustainable finance (raising funds for ocean projects, increase financial resources dedicated to the ocean, etc.) are also available for policy maker in this report, which concludes with a call to decision maker to end subsidies to fossil fuel production immediately and accelerate the implementation of adaptation measures, in particular for island states and coastal regions, favouring nature-based solutions.

Anne-Sophie Garrigou, Editor-in-Chief


The Beam unites the changemakers and innovators in the Global Climate Action movement to amplify their voices.

The Beam

Written by

The Beam

The Beam unites the changemakers and innovators in the Global Climate Action movement to amplify their voices. Contact us: thebeam@the-beam.com


The Beam unites the changemakers and innovators in the Global Climate Action movement to amplify their voices.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade