UN Ocean Conference 2022: our ocean health sits within our hands

Minimising and addressing ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming is an Interactive Dialogue during the UN Ocean Conference held in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 01 July 2022

As Pacific Island people, we have a deep connection to the ocean.

We are Small Islands Developing States and Large Ocean Island States.

Our ocean has carried our ancestors across waters to forge new lives. Our ocean is central to our cultural traditions, legends and way of life. Our ocean is a source of food and livelihood for so many of us. Much of our traditional knowledge such as weather indicators, fishing, and resilience is related to our ocean.

Having absorbed 90 per cent of the excess heat in the climate system, and approximately 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere, our ocean is changing.

We are facing sea-level rise, more frequent and intense storms, marine heat waves, loss of marine life and habitats as well as ocean acidification.

This threatens our ocean life making it difficult for certain marine species to grow their skeletons and shells. Our coral reefs will also dissolve faster than they can rebuild their skeletons.

We know of the damage to our ocean from climate change and as such many have worked hard to ensure our ocean is officially endorsed and acknowledged in our global convention on climate change, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In 2019 at the Twenty-Fifth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, the first Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue was mandated. It was held in December 2020.

Then at the Twenty-Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in 2021, the Glasgow Climate Pact opened the opportunity for this dialogue to be an annual event starting at the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice in Bonn, June to strengthen ocean-based action.

We continue to raise the impacts upon our ocean in the face of climate change, working with over 190 countries asking for explicit inclusion of the impacts of increasing acidification within mitigation targets and adaptation strategies. This will help us accurately assess the full suite of change and vulnerability caused directly by increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

We need to increase and ease access to climate financing for the ocean and coastal climate monitoring and research, risk assessments, and remediation or adaptation measures. This should be explored through the available climate finance mechanisms available now.

Our Pacific Islands call for a 1.5-degree Celsius world for our Pacific survival and also embraces the survival of our ocean as without it we have no life.

While we can’t obviously see the impacts of ocean acidification just yet, we will. We’ll experience a loss of our coral reefs which will mean a loss of homes for important seafood species. This will increase our vulnerability we will be left opened and exposed given that coral reefs play a role in dissipating 97 per cent of the wave energy that would otherwise impact our shorelines.

The New Zealand-Pacific Partnership on Ocean Acidification Project is the only collaborative effort between SPREP, the Government of New Zealand and the Government of the Principality of Monaco to build the resilience of our Pacific Island communities to ocean acidification. This led to activities in Fiji, Kiribati and Tokelau as well as the development of communication and awareness materials. The project yielded some excellent lessons and concluded in early 2022.

Tagaloa Cooper, Pacific News Service, 15 June 2022. Full article.

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