A new scientific report, ‘The Ocean as a Solution for Climate Change: 5 Opportunities for Action’, launched today (24th September) at the UN Climate Action Summit highlights how ocean-based climate action can play a much bigger role in shrinking the world’s carbon footprint than was previously thought. It could deliver up to a fifth (21%, or 11 GtCO2e) of the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cuts needed in 2050 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

The report, produced by the Expert Group, which included Dr Tristan Smith, for the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy – a group of 14 heads of state and government – provides the first ever comprehensive, quantitative analysis into the role that ocean-based solutions can play in the fight against climate change. The Panel consists of the presidents or prime ministers of Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal, representing approximately 30% of the world’s coastlines, 30% of the world’s exclusive economic zones, 20% of the world’s ocean catch, and 20% of the world’s shipping fleet.

Dr Tristan Smith, Founding director of UMAS and Associate Professor at the UCL Energy Institute said: “shipping used to be thought of as “hard to abate” and “behind on climate“ but the messages from the various industry coalitions, this report and political declarations is that it CAN and MUST be decarbonised. The report shows we need new measures at the IMO which result in guaranteed, urgent and high impact on operational emissions”

Decarbonizing the shipping industry through energy efficiency measures and switching to low/zero-carbon fuels would also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, up to 1.8 GtCO2e a year by 2050. The report’s main recommendations on shipping show that the existing policy measures, for example the Energy Efficiency Design Index is not effective and needs a major overhaul to create the reductions in GHG emissions in line with the IMO’s initial strategy. The key actions needed are immediate improvements in energy efficiency to reduce fuel consumption, followed as quickly as possible by policy interventions that can incentivise shipping to transition away from fossil fuels, and private sector initiatives that enable adoption of low- and zero-carbon fuels.

For more information on the High Level Panel for a Sustaiable Oceans Economy visit www.oceanpanel.org/climate