Global Ocean Policy Day featured an opening plenary session on Wednesday, 13 May, followed by panel-led discussions on: climate change mitigation; adaptation measures and security concerns; financing adaptation; and the future of oceans and the climate change agenda. Participants were also presented with a summary report of the preparatory sessions that led up to the event.

OPENING PLENARY: Global Ocean Policy Day opened with a presentation by Gellwynn Jusuf, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesia. He described the Global Ocean Policy Day as a historic undertaking requiring multiple stakeholders to emphasize the connections between global climate change and the oceans and coasts. Biliana Cicin-Sain, Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, reflected on the convergence of governmental, inter-governmental, and non-governmental organizations, and science and industry sectors to deal with the urgent economic and environmental ramifications associated with oceans and climate change. She highlighted the subjects to be deliberated at Global Ocean Policy Day, including: the role of the oceans in sustaining life, regulating climate, and serving as an alternative source of energy; adaptation measures to assist coastal-dwelling people; ecosystem-based approaches for preserving biodiversity and human communities; mustering sufficient financial commitments; capacity building; the involvement of civil society and the private sector.

Minister Numberi emphasized the indispensable environmental and economic role of the oceans. He described the limited ability of the ocean to act as a buffer against climate change and that despite all the concern, cause for cautious optimism remains if action is taken now. He emphasized the need to bring the issues discussed at Global Ocean Policy Day to the attention of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP15) meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009, and reinforced the Indonesian government’s commitment to these proceedings. Global Ocean Policy Day was officially opened when Minister Numberi rang a ceremonial gong, which was met with applause from the assembled delegates.

Angela Cropper, Deputy Executive Director, UNEP, acknowledged the important interface between climate change and oceans, but recommended further elements to be considered by Global Ocean Policy Day, including other interconnected impacts to oceans ecosystems, such as: overfishing, deep seabed mining and pollution. Cropper recalled the activism of the 1980s and early 1990s, which provided the basis for taking a precautionary approach to climate change. She noted the current status of global fish stocks, stressing the need for integrative approaches to reverse their decline. On the impacts of climate change to SIDS, she noted the lack of adaptation measures enacted since the adoption of the 1994 Barbados Programme of Action. She urged Global Ocean Policy Day participants to develop a unified approach to oceans management.

Van Duc Nguyen, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam, described changes in weather patterns and associated impacts on coastal zones and oceans, including: temperature rise; droughts; and modification of ecosystems, fisheries and aquaculture. He noted that Viet Nam is a poor country and acknowledged the need for international support for implementation of adaptation measures.

Ambassador Dessima Williams, Permanent Representative of Grenada to the UN and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), presented on perspectives of SIDS on climate change and on climate change negotiations. She said AOSIS comprises a group of 43 SIDS in the African, Indian Ocean, Caribbean and Pacific regions that focuses on climate change and sustainable development issues. She revealed that the main objective for SIDS at UNFCCC COP15 is to reach agreement on: a common and shared vision; mitigation and adaptation measures; and financing proposals. Ambassador Williams stressed that the challenges of climate change are applicable to all coastal communities and hoped that a strong agreement will be reached at the Copenhagen meeting.

PANEL 1: CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION: Cropper opened the first panel and thanked the eight panelists for their attendance. Patricio Bernal, Executive Secretary, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC/UNESCO), stressed the need to explore new ways to mitigate the impacts of climate change. According to Bernal, new options worth exploring for carbon offsets include ocean carbon capture and storage and mangrove restoration. Tony Haymet, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, US, underscored the lack of an urgent response to scientific findings on climate change. The exponential rise in carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels has increased ocean acidity, said Haymet, noting that subsequent research suggests that this corrosive water will dissolve vast calcium carbonate coastlines including those of eastern North America.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, University of Queensland, Australia, declared that if UNFCCC COP15 negotiations are only based on limiting carbon dioxide concentrations to 450ppm and temperature increases to two degrees Celsius, catastrophic consequences will result. He supported comments made by Williams that policy has misunderstood scientific messages and must aim for more stringent targets. He suggested that a 40% probability of exceeding catastrophic thresholds is like playing Russian roulette.

Roberto Calcagno, Prince Albert Oceanographic Foundation, Monaco, stressed the importance of adequate communication between the scientific world, civil society and policy makers and invited participants to contribute to the Monaco Ocean Summit to be held 1-2 April 2010. Bernard Giraud, Danone Group, and Christophe Lefebvre, Councilor for IUCN, then informed participants of the benefits of mangrove restoration shown by African pilot projects.

Jeff Price, WWF-US, encouraged participants to consider the critical assumptions underlying the discussions of climate change. He stated that saving the oceans will require achieving an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and halting nearly all deforestation. Duncan Currie, Greenpeace International, emphasized that the loss of marine biodiversity will lead to a reduction in the resilience of the ocean. He discouraged using ocean fertilization as a means of sequestering carbon dioxide and promoted ecosystem- and precautionary-based approaches to protect the oceans. He described alternative energy sources including tides, currents and waves, encouraged both the creation of MPAs and closing the governance gap on the high seas, and emphasized the importance of the ocean in any agreement at UNFCCC COP15. Questions from the floor called for more immediate access to scientific and policy information and the permanent review of oceans within UN General Assemb
ly processes.

PANEL 2: ADAPTATION MEASURES AND SECURITY CONCERNS: Ambassador Laurent Stefanini, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, France, cautioned that there is a climate change “point of no return