Contributing to the Ocean Discussions at the Climate Bonn Meeting 2022

Mitchell Lennan

Hub Director Elisa Morgera (on the right) at Bonn Conference together with representatives from the BUNDjugend Bayern and The Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI) organisations.

Following the integration of the ocean into the Glasgow Climate Pact in November 2021, the Bonn Climate Meeting (6–16 June 2022), provided an opportunity to share the One Ocean Hub’s key messages on integrated approaches to the climate-ocean-human rights nexus during the poster session of the Research Dialogue and to bring local voices to the Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue, as well as connect with partners on working on human rights and children’s rights.

Hub messages at the Research Dialogue

The Fourteenth Meeting of the Research Dialogue was held during the 56th meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn on 9 June 2022. The general aim of the Research Dialogue is to provide a space for discussion on the ‘needs for climate change research and research-related capacity-building, particularly those of developing countries, and to convey research findings from activities undertaken by regional and international research programmes and organizations’ to support the implementation of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. Two key themes of this Research Dialogue were ‘Ocean and Cryosphere’, and ‘Integrated solutions for adaptation and resilience’ which link directly to the Hub’s research. The guiding questions from the SBSTA chair were:

  • What are the latest research findings and lessons learned, particularly at regional level? and
  • What are specific needs for national and regional research and research capacity building for developing countries?

Based on the above themes and guiding questions, the Hub had the oppurtunity to showcase research on the human rights-ocean-climate nexus at the Research Dialogue poster session held directly after the Research Dialogue. The aim of the session was to allow researchers to engage with attendees of the Research Dialogue through Q&A and discussion, the posters was also on display for the rest of the Bonn Climate Meeting on 16 June. The Hub’s poster, authored by Hub Early Career Researcher Mitchell Lennan and Hub Director, Elisa Morgera, was titled ‘Ocean-Based Climate Action and Human Rights’.

The Hub’s poster made the following recommendations, to:

  • Require respect for human rights in relation to the scoping, assessment, selection, implementation and monitoring of ocean-based actions (including in assessment of loss and damage);
  • Focus on curbing CO2 emissions to combat ocean acidification as a mitigation co-benefit; and explore how loss and damage can be operationalised to limit the ecological and human rights impacts of acidification as a slow-onset event;
  • Harness guidance already adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity on ocean-based climate change mitigation and adaptation, which also supports the protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples, small-scale fishers and other ocean-dependent communities;
  • Consider the synergies between “phasing-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” and the curbing of plastic production, that can in turn contribute to prevent ocean plastic pollution and its negative impacts on marine biodiversity, the ocean’s capacity to mitigate climate change, and human rights;
  • Consider the role of community-led ecosystem restoration in contributing to mitigation and adaptation, as well as the protection of several human rights;
  • Safeguard human rights in the context of blue carbon initiatives;
  • Develop guidelines on ocean-based adaptation approaches through the Glasgow-Sharm El-Sheikh Work Programme for the Global Goal on Adaptation, notably on fisheries and climate change in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and relevant stakeholders including regional fisheries bodies to strengthen resilience and limit losses.

With specific regard to climate finance, the poster recommended that States should prioritize:

  • scaled-up research to the ocean-basin and regional scale, to develop and design monitoring tools, as well as appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies;
  • transdisciplinary ocean research (across the marine and social sciences and the arts); which respectfully includes indigenous and local knowledge holders, and other human rights holders in the co-identification of ocean-based action; and
  • ocean-based action that supports the protection of children’s human rights (referring to the forthcoming UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s forthcoming General Comment on children’s rights to a healthy environment, with a special focus on climate change).

In doing so, States should require specific conditions of “fair research partnerships” and “co-development” of ocean-based action as a human rights safeguard.

Bringing local voices to the Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue

In addition, the Hub was invited by the UN Climate Change Secretariat to produce a video to amplify Indigenous and local knowledge holders’ voices from small-scale fishing communities in Ghana, Namibia and South Africa to support discussions on how to “blue” Nationally Determined Contributions (see our earlier blog post here). The video was shown during the Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue (15 June 2022). The video emphasized that for blue-ing NDCs, it is necessary to recognize that indigenous peoples and small-scale fishers have knowledge relevant to climate change, even when they live far from the coast or are excluded from other decisions, and develop better ways to listen and learn from them, making reference at the Hub’s arts-based approaches that integrate natural and social sciences with other knowledge systems, which also upholds human rights (see here). The video also provides insights into the role of small-scale fishers as environmental human rights defenders who contribute to everyone’s right to a healthy environment, in particular in relation to climate change mitigation (see also here and here).

Connecting with human rights experts

Finally, the Bonn Conference provided an opportunity for the Hub Director, Elisa Morgera, to meet in person colleagues from the Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative, to exchange views on how to support more genuine participation of children and youth in the international climate regime. Prof Morgera also participated in a dinner discussion on climate change and human rights organized by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Centre for International Environmental Law on 8th June 2022, which focused on: public participation in the international climate negotiations, loss and damage, climate finance, and the global stocktake. These exchanges contributed to refine the Hub’s inputs into the first report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights, discussed here.