Against a difficult geopolitical backdrop, the United Nations Climate Change Conference - COP 27 - saw countries take a package of decisions that reaffirmed their commitment to limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The package of decisions also strengthened countries' actions to adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate change, while promoting the financial, technological and capacity-building support needed by developing countries.
For the first time, the ocean was put on the agenda at COP27. Indeed, marine protected areas (MPAs) can make a significant contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation. They can improve carbon sequestration, coastal protection, biodiversity, the reproductive capacity of marine organisms, and fishermen's catches and incomes. Most of these benefits are only achieved in MPAs under strong or full protection.
A report published ahead of COP27 and COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal, the result of a joint effort by scientists from CNRS, the Stockholm Resilience Center at Stockholm University and the Ocean & Climate Platform, addresses the lack of knowledge about their contribution to climate change mitigation and presents 16 ecological and social trajectories through which marine protected areas could contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
In line with this, the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway and the Netherlands have committed to establishing "green shipping corridors", which would create fully decarbonised shipping routes (including both land-based infrastructure and the ships themselves). The shipping industry is responsible for 3% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. The UK and US have announced the creation of the Green Maritime Corridors Working Group to facilitate maritime decarbonisation commitments.
The climate-water nexus is becoming evident...
In the year since COP26, a series of devastating weather events have hit both developed and developing countries. We highlight here the water security problems that hit Europe and the US particularly hard this summer, as well as the floods in Pakistan, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Droughts and heatwaves have been pernicious in sub-Saharan Africa, and floods and droughts have not spared China either, not to mention Hurricane Ian which devastated large parts of Florida. Water security has become a major global issue. Europe has been engulfed by killer heatwaves this summer, putting a strain on industry and the agricultural sector. Triggered by the worst drought in 500 years, 45% of Europe was under drought alert by mid-July. Reservoirs across the continent were at low capacity, from Spain to Norway. With 40% and 38% of Europe's water withdrawals respectively, industry and agriculture suffered the effects of water stress. On the other side of the Atlantic, water shortages, mainly in the southwestern United States, were particularly acute.
Declining water levels in the Colorado River Basin have been attributed to a mega-drought that has hit the southwest in recent years, with recent reports showing that the past two decades have seen the most severe droughts in the region in at least 1,200 years. In support, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) included $4 billion in provisions to mitigate and adapt to drought in the region. Proceeds from the bill will be used primarily to fund voluntary water use reductions. Farmers, for example, could be paid not to farm and homeowners could be paid to replace their lawns with alternatives that require less or no water. These voluntary changes must verifiably reduce water use to be eligible. Funding may also be provided for projects that improve or restore the ecosystem directly affected by a water shortage.