One Ocean Hub supporting ‘Because the Ocean’ Third Declaration 2021

By Senia Febrica

Because the Ocean is an initiative joined by a group of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), that has spearheaded the link between ocean and climate change. This blogpost aims to explore how One Ocean Hub’s research and activities support the pledges outlined in the third declaration of ‘Because the Ocean’ Initiative adopted at COP26 in Glasgow, UK.

The first declaration of the ‘Because the Ocean’ Initiative in 2015 promoted the production of the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate that recognises the importance of the ocean in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The second declaration in 2016 sought the inclusion of the ocean in the second ambition cycle and the Global Stocktake; and encouraged Parties to submit climate strategies. The third declaration in 2021 was set to support the adoption of COP26 decision reflecting the ocean-climate-biodiversity linkages. The third declaration underscores the need for “collaborating on transformational ocean science for ocean action that can move us from the “ocean we have” to the ocean we want.”

Below we highlight how the work of the One Ocean Hub, which seeks to embody – and share learning on – transformative ocean research, supports key areas of urgent action identified under the third declaration:

Integrating relevant ocean aspects in the already existing work of constituted bodies, work programs and mechanisms under the UNFCCC and other relevant fora and advocating for synergies and cooperation with other UN/international bodies within their respective mandates.

Through partnerships with various UN bodies, the Hub aims to tackle disconnects at all levels in ocean governance and improve resilience of ocean dependent communities including small-scale fishers, indigenous peoples, and women in adapting to climate change. On the 1st of November 2021, the Hub convened the SBSTA and Ocean-Climate Dialogue live event for COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion. The discussion panel explored strategies needed for collective interventions by UN and other global organisations to build ocean resilience in the face of climate change. The event brought together scientists and representatives of various UN bodies including UNFCCC, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the International Maritime Organization, and the UN Regular Process (World Ocean Assessment III). See the key messages arising from the event here and here.

At the event, the Hub shared its experience in providing innovative research to support new synergies across the UN System: The Hub, for instance, contributed to the global and African consultations on “environmental human rights defenders” in early 2021 with a view to recognizing  small-scale fishers (SSF), indigenous peoples and local communities negatively affected by blue economy initiatives as defenders of the ocean, including from a climate change perspective. This addresses a blind spot in current international initiatives that are land-focused and ignore “ocean defenders.”  It can be expected that several UN agencies already working on defenders issues will now be able to support ocean/climate defenders (including engaging with the UNFCCC processes internationally) and the Hub is further collaborating with FAO and UNEP to raise these issues during the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries (2022) – see our joint 2021 World Ocean Week event here.

Encouraging UNFCCC Parties and financing institutions and mechanisms to integrate ocean-climate-biodiversity linkages in their strategies and plans required to implement the Paris Agreement.

Transformative blue finance is at the heart of One Ocean Hub’s research on critical blue economy. Drawing from experiences in the South Pacific and Seychelles, One Ocean Hub research examines shortcomings of previous ocean-related funding initiatives and opportunities to shape a transformative approach to blue finance for sustainable and inclusive economies and climate change adaption and mitigation. The Hub also reflects on the role of international and regional ocean researcher funders, as well as foreign investors in the blue economy, including with a view to ensuring an integrated ecosystem-based and human rights-based approach. These lessons learnt are going to become relevant also for future climate finance that will target ocean-related interventions. Recognising the importance of creative economies and the role of ocean’s intangible heritage and arts in contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Hub has initiated the ‘Deep Emotional Engagement Programme (DEEP) Fund’ to promote creative practices that share emotional connections with the local, national, and international stakeholders. Few examples of the projects supported in the first round of the Hub’s DEEP Fund include the Keiskamma Art Project in South Africa; Netai en Namou Toc [Stories of Mother Ocean] in Vanuatu; and Cocooned in Harmony in Ghana.

Recognising the need for more ambition by all on tackling climate change and on protecting the ocean.

The One Ocean Hub work highlights the interconnection between the need to address climate change and protect the ocean. The Hub does this by promoting inter- and trans-disciplinarity and science/policy engagement on the nexus of climate change, oceans, biodiversity, and human rights. The One Ocean Hub works with stakeholders and experts from varied disciplines including marine science, law, anthropology, sociology, history, and arts (Wahome, Hills, and Morgera, 30 August 2020; 29 October 2020).

The One Ocean Hub’ tools and technology to support ecosystem mapping and sustainable fisheries in the face of climate change, for example, have been developed across marine and social sciences. The Hub is also promoting to scale up research and mitigation process to ocean-basin and regional scale. Due to the hyper-connectivity of ocean ecosystems, we need to scale-up our research to ocean-basin scale to understand the impacts and design appropriate mitigation strategies. Research at ocean-basin scale is needed to understand different areas of the oceans that are under greater risks due to climate change, develop monitoring tools, and design appropriate mitigation and conservation strategies. For instance, to develop mitigation processes against the material loss and habitat crumbling of coral reefs, we will need repeated measure studies on live and dead coral, and refined models are needed to identify tipping points of coral habitat loss and develop powerful monitoring tools (Hennige, 2020).

Fostering the exchange of knowledge and good practices among member states

Investing in exchange of knowledge and building people’ capacity is very important to address challenges posed by climate change. Capacity building for people in low- and middle-income countries is addressed across the Hub’s research programmes.

  • The Hub for instance, collaborates with the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea to deliver a training session on Climate Change: Impact and Adaptation for the UN Nippon Fellows and Alumni, the majority of whom are government officials from low and middle income countries.
  • The Hub contributed to World Ocean Week (2020, 2021)
  • The Hub is also developing ecosystem models with stakeholders from main commercial fisheries sub-sectors, fisheries and environmental managers, and regional organisations such as the Benguela Current Commission to predict the impacts of climate change on fisheries and develop and test adaptation scenarios (Shannon, 2020; Ortega, 2020).
  • The Hub is developing management support tools, to aid decision makers and different maritime sectors in managing ocean seascapes.
  • Emerging Researcher led initiatives within the Hub are encouraged to develop policy development skill and tackle theoretical challenges around transdisciplinary research towards best research practices.
  • To highlight the role of children and young people for a healthy ocean in the context of climate adaptation, our youth partners, the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change (@pisfcc), are working with primary school teachers in Western Province to develop a challenge-led ocean education programme which integrates Pacific culture, indigenous knowledge, and science.
  • The Hub contributed to the UN Conference of Youth 16 and is leading a live event for COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion on ‘Children and young people’ human rights to a healthy ocean: their importance for climate change adaptation & mitigation’ on the 12th of November 2021 at 1pm-2:30 pm GMT. Register here.