Highlighting the growing consensus that the oceans are central to climate negotiations, a new policy brief from the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) was launched at an official side event of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday, highlighted the need for clear targets and indicators, as well as institutional and enforcement mechanisms to guide ocean-climate action. The policy brief “Ocean-climate interface: implications for climate action based on global commons” was launched during a session on “Climate action through innovation, implementation and Multilevel Inclusive Governance”, organized by TERI and TERI School of Advanced Studies in collaboration with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization – Japan, and Indigenous Information Network – Kenya at COP27. The knowledge document was produced as part of the COP27 Compass component of the Act4Earth initiative launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2022. At the launch in Sharm el-Sheikh, Dr Shailly Kedia, Senior Fellow, TERI , gave a presentation on the Act4Earth policy briefs on the COP27 negotiations, the internationalization of lifestyles for the environment, inclusive energy transitions and the ocean-climate interface. The oceans, which are the largest known carbon sink in the world, were largely omitted from climate change negotiations until COP21 held in 2015. The policy brief focuses on global commons marine areas beyond national jurisdiction and on climate action, and examines the interface between climate and ocean governance. “The oceans have long been neglected in climate change negotiations, even though the UNFCCC has clearly identified its role as the planet’s most important carbon sink. The patchwork of existing agreements on the high seas, including the Convention Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), barely address the role of the high seas in relation to climate change,” emphasized Dr. Prodipto Ghosh, Distinguished Fellow, TERI. gaps in the climate-ocean interface and examines it through the prism of the global commons.Global commons are resource domains beyond the jurisdiction of a single country, and their governance remains controversial as “No one state or region has full responsibility for it. Highlighting the shortcomings of the current climate regime, Dr Kedia said: “As climate negotiations are party-driven, climate actions in the National jurisdictions have received greater attention and the global commons, including the oceans, have not been a priority area in terms of climate ambition and action.” She underscored the need for greater interactions between the climate regime and the ocean regime involving the UNFCCC and UNCLOS. The knowledge paper observes that ocean equity issues are often not explicitly stated. “It is an undeniable fact that so far, the distribution of benefits from the oceans has been inequitable and the economy of the oceans has mainly benefited wealthy nations and corporations,” he notes. While the oceans have helped slow the rate of climate change by acting as a carbon sink, climate change impacts such as acidification, warming, altered circulation patterns and sea level rise also affected him deeply. “Existing international agreements are marked by a profound inequality of treatment between developed and developing countries. There is a need to move to a more comprehensive agreement or protocol under the UNFCCC that protects and contributes to enhancing the role of the oceans on climate change, and sets out countries’ rights and obligations. In doing so, the UNFCCC principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” must be fully respected if such an approach is to have any chance of succeeding.” said Dr Ghosh. The need to strengthen the interface between the climate regime and the ocean regime is highlighted in the policy brief. “Currently, the interface largely involves the interactions between the Rio conventions. This needs to be expanded to include UNCLOS, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and various environmental agreements – including those in the polar regions,” he observes. Better integration of oceans and high seas into the tools and existing processes under the UNFCCC, the need to report on global indicator frameworks to go beyond what is currently reported under SDG Goal 14, and create pathways for engagement with local communities and vulnerable countries to bring them and their voices to global platforms is suggested by the authors of the policy brief.It also advocates for improved ocean governance and management, bridging the knowledge gap in ocean governance and clearly defining the role of the private sector in ocean governance Access the briefing note here: About TERI The Institute of Energy and Resources (TERI), based in India, is an independent, multifaceted research organization with capabilities in policy research, technology development and implementation. An innovator and agent of change in the fields of energy, environment, climate change and sustainability, TERI has been at the forefront of conversations and actions in these areas for nearly five decades. Based in New Delhi, it has centers in six Indian cities and is supported by a multidisciplinary team of scientists, sociologists, economists, engineers, administration professionals and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
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