The Ocean Pathway

The Ocean Pathway: Towards an Ocean Inclusive UNFCCC Process

Overview & 2020 Strategy

The reality of ocean change and climate change is obvious for those whose livelihoods depend on the ocean. For islanders and those living on the coasts, the change in the ocean is reflected in shifts in weather patterns, extreme ocean and weather events, rising ocean temperatures and the impacts on fisheries and livelihoods. This is the frontline of Ocean Change and Climate change. The Ocean Pathway was successfully launched in COP23 in Bonn with a two track strategy for 2020 supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement that includes; 1. Increasing the role of the ocean considerations in the UNFCCC process and; 2. Significantly increasing action in priority areas impacting or impacted by ocean and climate change. Co-chairs are Fiji and Sweden represented by the Fiji Minister of Economy and Minister Responsible for Climate Change, Hon. Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, Hon. Isabella Lovin. This continues a unique partnership for the ocean that started with the co-hosting of the UN Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017.


Inaugural membership at COP23 was limited to those able to commit to provide their support at the launching in Bonn at COP23. Membership is open to those supporting the two-track strategy. Membership and activities are supported by a small secretariat and global coordination team.

Leadership Group (Countries/Parties,Territories)

Parties: Fiji, Sweden, Norway, Samoa, Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, Portugal, Dominican Republic, Chile, New Zealand, Kiribati, Mexico (Canada, Palau, Kenya have expressed interest) Territories: French Polynesia (Canary Islands expressed interest) Parties in the leadership group will be informed and engaged in advocating and implementing the strategy for the ocean to be included in the UNFCCC process.

Action and Advisory Group (IGO, NGO, NSA, Alliances)

Commonwealth Secretariat, UNESCAP, Pacific Community (USP), WWF, TNC, Conservation International, RARE, World Ocean Council, IOC-UNESCO, PIDF, University of the South Pacific, Ocean Conservancy, Peace Boat, FAO (IUCN, PIFS, SPREP, UNEP for follow up) Platforms and Coalitions – Because of the Ocean Coalition, Ocean and Climate Platform, International Ocean Acidification Alliance, Ocean Action Day and the World Oceans Forum.

TRACK ONE: Developing a strategy for the Ocean in the UNFCCC negotiation space

The Ocean Pathway recognises that achieving the ambition of the Paris agreement of limiting warming to 1.5 or well below 2 degrees would not be possible without a functioning ocean. The ocean is severely impacted by climate change at the same time it plays a critical role in regulating climate and sequestering carbon at a global scale. The Ocean Pathway will now; 1. Work with parties and partners to establish a “Friends of the Ocean” process that will provide a safe space for parties to discuss, debate and implement the various options for the ocean in the UNFCCC starting in Bangkok and in each UNFCCC conference until 2020. 2. Support the work of parties and partners to raise the role of the ocean in existing processes within the UNFCCC and for action for a healthy ocean in the Global Climate Action agenda. Willing parties are invited to join the “Friends of the Ocean” process that starts in Bangkok that can advocate and support an effective work programme and potential agenda item on the ocean for COP25.

TRACK TWO: Incubating and Accelerating Action

There are already strong activities on ocean and climate change being led by various organizations and platforms/alliances. The Ocean Pathway and the COP23 Presidency can convene key players, form new partnerships and provide new momentum to existing activities as well as new and emerging actions.

Coastal Cities, Settlements & SIDS (IUCN, UNESCAP, ICLEI, Fiji)

Coastal Cities and Settlements and Islands States coexist on the nexus of the ocean and climate change and are on the frontline of impacts. Climate Action for these communities should include; i. Reducing emissions ii. Significant adaptation, and iii. Ocean health.

Maritime transportation (USP, SPC, IRENA, GIZ)

Action on reducing emissions from transportation is a mixed bag with developing countries overwhelmed with traffic and transportation challenges. While reducing emissions from maritime transportation remains the major priority, it may also be an opportunity for new discussions on transportation overall especially at a regional level.

Ocean Acidification

Work with the Ocean Acidification Alliance on a high level event at the California Summit and COP24 that agrees on process for ambitious 2020 and 2030 action plans and targets that can be applied in countries and regions and link to global outcomes. The Pacific Transport FOrum will be held in Suva, Fiji from the 8th-11th of November to develop a process for Pacific Island countries to set 2030 and 2050 targets to reduce fossil fuel use.

Blue and Resilient Economies

Encourage national and regional initiatives that incentivise and encourage cities, districts and countries to transition towards resilient economies that are based on ensuring a sustainable ocean and at least net zero greenhouse gas emission economies.

Marine Ecosystems – Coastal Habitats and ecosystems

1. Overall focus on resilience of the ocean including protected and managed areas and reducing stresses. 2. Increasing action on blue carbon – the role of mangroves, seagrass, coastal wetlands and coral reefs in sequestering carbon.

Ocean Law & Policy (UN SIDS Unit, UN DOLAOS, IUCN)

A Global symposium on current issues of climate and oceans including displacement.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

Support the work of the Because of the Ocean Coalition and others to encourage inclusion of ocean matters in NDCs as they are implemented and enhanced.

Friends of the Ocean @ UNFCCC – Bangkok

1-4pm, September 3rd, 2018 at the UN Conference Center, Conference room 4

The Ocean Pathway Partnership, together with the Because the Ocean Coalition, the Ocean Conservancy and World Ocean Forum will be hosting the initial “Friends of the Ocean” discussion for parties to debate, discuss and agree on options for implementing the ocean in the UNFCCC process.

The Ocean Pathway Strategy

Fiji’s presidency is a voice for the most vulnerable countries that include small island and coastal states that are literally on the nexus of the ocean and climate change. A healthy ocean is critical to the economic, cultural and social wellbeing of vulnerable countries and a significant threat to their survival with the impacts of climate change including sea level rise, acidification and intense storms and weather patterns compromising their future.

Fiji and Sweden co-chaired the first UN Ocean Conference in June 2017 and the Call for Action underlined the urgency for a healthy ocean and the critical relationship between the ocean and climate. Action for a healthy ocean is action on climate change and vice versa. It is imperative that Fiji as President for COP23 ensures an effective and cohesive home for the ocean in the UNFCCC process.

Fiji as a Pacific Small Island Developing State (SIDS) also recognizes the significance of their role as Large Ocean States with more than 90 percent of their national boundaries made up of ocean. Fiji is also a member of the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) in the United Nations. While SIDS representatives have held important positions within the UNFCCC process, Fiji is the first Island nation to hold the Presidency of the Climate Change COP. Embedding the ocean in the UNFCCC is an imperative for all SIDS and coastal states and Fiji’s Presidency of COP a formidable opportunity.

There is a consensus on the important relationship between the ocean and climate change in terms of management of carbon, the absorption of heat and regulation of global weather patterns. There is serious concern on the current degradation of ocean health and the impact of and on climate change. Climate change has negative impacts on the ocean in terms of acidification, warming, rising sea levels and de oxygenation. In addition to climate change, human induced changes threaten ocean health including pollution, habitat destruction and over harvesting. Action for healthy ocean and climate change is imperative to reduce the multiple stresses and threats to our ocean in regulating climate. The Fiji Presidency provides the opportunity to draw attention and momentum for this effort and urgently address the adverse impacts or threats that impair the ocean’s role as climate regulator.

Finally, the current acknowledgement of the ocean in the Paris Agreement falls under the recognition of the important role of ecosystem services to climate change and its role as a carbon sink. The ocean is the most critical of all natural ecosystems for our climate due to a combination of its composition and scale. There is no solution to global climate change without action on the world’s ocean. A special case for a healthy ocean and climate is established under this Fiji Presidency.