Madrid, 4 December 2019 – The impact of the climate crisis on our oceans has far-reaching implications for biodiversity and humankind, requiring an urgent global political response in the next 12 months, a new Greenpeace International report warns. In Hot Water: The Climate Crisis and the Urgent Need for Ocean Protection states the breakdown of the oceans due to fossil fuel usage is rapid and large-scale, already disrupting ecosystem structure and functions across the globe, and resulting in ocean heating, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation. 

“The climate crisis is an oceans crisis. Rising global temperatures mean that our oceans are heating up as well, becoming unlivable for marine life. The oceans serve all of us, on the highveld or at the cape; they are the second lung of the planet, and their resilience and health means our own is protected. Millions of people around the world are calling for action. We cannot afford to allow marine ecosystems and functions to break down,” said Bukelwa Nzimande, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

The report urges coordinated action from governments, seizing on a series of events over the next year which presents a ‘unique window of opportunity’ to address climate breakdown, biodiversity loss and ocean protection at a global scale. This includes states agreeing to be more ambitious their national greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets at climate summits in Spain and the UK, agreeing a Global Ocean Treaty at the UN by the end of 2020, and committing to protecting 30% of the oceans by 2030 with a network of ocean sanctuaries at the Convention on Biological Diversity summit in China in October 2020.

Through protecting at least 30% of the ocean with a network of sanctuaries, marine ecosystems can build resilience and better withstand rapid changes, as well as help mitigate climate breakdown by safeguarding carbon sequestration and storage. The report identifies ocean ecosystems at the frontline of climate impacts and recommends priority areas for governments to protect within a global network of ocean sanctuaries. These include both poles of the Arctic and Antarctic, whale hotspots, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass meadows, the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic, the mesopelagic zone and the deep ocean, which the report states should remain off-limits to the nascent deep sea mining industry. 

“The science is clear: our oceans are in a race against time. This is a historic opportunity for united and courageous action by governments across the world to create a network of ocean sanctuaries through an instrument like a Global Oceans Treaty. It is no longer just necessary, but critical for governments to commit urgently to immediate climate action that will safeguard not only the oceans, but all life and all people on a planet in crisis,” ended Nzimande. 

The report comes as Mediterranean ministers gather in Naples for the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Barcelona Convention, where Greenpeace Italy has is launching a coastal pilot station to monitor rising temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea, a hotspot for climate impacts. A UN Global Ocean Treaty would boost Mediterranean governments’ abilities to act collectively to protect ocean wildlife from the cumulative impacts of extractive activities and climate breakdown.

Notes

The full report, In Hot Water: The Climate Crisis and the Urgent Need for Ocean Protection, can be accessed here: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/publication/27261/in-hot-water/ 

For a collection of images related to the report, see: https://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJ8EUQHJ 
Greenpeace International Press Desk: +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours), pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org