Oceans Day at Durban Forwards Statement to COP 17

3 December 2011: Oceans Day took place on 3 December 2011, at the Rio Conventions Pavilion, on the sidelines of the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa. The one-day meeting was organized in seven sessions, addressing: oceans and coasts at the UNFCCC and at Rio+20; climate change and African fisheries; evidence of climate change from the large marine ecosystems (LMEs); progress on major oceans and climate issues; oceans and climate issues in small island developing States (SIDS); capacity building and public education; and mobilizing for action on oceans and climate.

Participants discussed a variety of issues, including the impacts of sea level rise, extreme weather events, the specific vulnerability of SIDS and ocean acidification. Participants also discussed the urgent need to address oceans and coasts within and outside the UNFCCC process, including through an integrated programme for oceans and climate. The meeting brought together over 170 participants representing governments, international organizations, the scientific community, academia and non-governmental organizations.

The meeting forwarded a Chair's statement to COP 17, which summarizes the main issues discussed at the event. It also addresses the need for urgent and concerted actions, emphasizing the central role of the oceans in climate change and addressing the urgent issues faced by coastal and island communities living at the frontlines of climate change, including sea level rise, coastal erosion, extreme weather events, and ocean acidification, among others.

In the statement, the global oceans community calls attention to the need to develop an integrated programme for oceans and coasts within and beyond the UNFCCC. It recommends: enacting stringent and immediate reductions in carbon dioxide emissions; deepening understanding and policy approaches to support “Blue Carbon”; accelerating progress on mitigation approaches using oceans and coasts; undertaking climate change adaptation in vulnerable coastal areas; building the capacity of coastal and island areas to predict, understand, and respond to the risks posed by climate change; and working with coastal countries to raise awareness about the implications of climate change impacts on oceans and coastal areas.

Oceans Day was co-organized by the Global Ocean Forum, in association with a number of partners, including the Government of South Africa, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the GEF/UNDP/UN Environment Programme (UNEP) African LME projects. [IISD RS Coverage] [Oceans Day at Durban Co-Chairs' Statement]