BRIEF from the Environment and Energy Working Group of the G7 Global Task Force
June 4, 2018
Covering close to 70% of the earth’s surface, oceans produce 70-80% of the world’s oxygen, provide food for animal and human populations, and are fundamental in controlling the earth’s climate. The oceans are without a doubt our most important habitat, and while they have been considered resilient and non-exhaustive, the current anthropogenic impacts of climate change are deeply affecting their sustainability. In fact, from 1971 to 2010, it was in our oceans where the greatest increase of the energy stored in the climate system has taken place. Since the beginning of the industrial era, the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has led to the accelerated acidification of the oceans. Human-induced climate change has contributed substantially to the rise of the global mean sea level rise.
It is expected that over the course of this century as our oceans continue to warm the Atlantic Meridional Overturning circulation will be strongly affected and weakened, Arctic sea ice will continue to disappear, fisheries activity will be dramatically impacted, and mass coral bleaching will occur. Human mortality and costly damage to coastal infrastructure are also expected to increase as ocean levels rise.
Other political challenges are also threats to our oceans, such as maritime piracy, terrorism, and the negative environmental impacts of plastic leakage into our seas and oceans. Responding to these challenges is not only urgent but necessary. Inaction will increase the risk of danger in coming years. As G7 countries reach out to other countries and international organizations to discuss oceans protection, it is necessary that they acknowledge the need for greater oceans governance coordination, cooperation and coherence to improve maritime security, and that they look to address the impacts of climate change on the world’s oceans.
Advancing oceans protection requires the G7 to be holistic and integrate economic, social, and environmental concerns. The G7 must welcome with appreciation the progress related to the upcoming release of the IPCC Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate in 2019, which will be an important moment to link science, oceans action and climate ambition.
We expect the G7 to note with concern the climate change alteration to the physical, chemical and biological properties of the world’s oceans and the increase of risks and irreversible shifts induced by further warming of the oceans by 1°C or 2°C, including ocean acidification due to increased concentrations of carbon dioxide. The G7 must acknowledge human dependence on marine systems and the risk of losing marine and coastal ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem services provided by our oceans in the Arctic and tropical regions.
The G7 must recognize the need for immediate global action on oceans and the creation of international frameworks based on existing work from, though not exclusive to, bodies such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, UN-Oceans, the Arctic Council and the IMO. The G7 must ensure climate reduction targets are directly linked to global action on oceans, and the protection of the Arctic.
Canada should encourage G7 countries to continue an exchange of experiences to enhance domestic action, science, and communication on oceans and climate protection, and promote immediate action to slow the rate of near-term warming globally, particularly in sensitive regions such as the Arctic, by cutting emissions of short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon.
The G7 must recognize the particular need of Small Island Development States and coastal communities around the world to adapt to the impacts of climate change, specifically the need for investments in sustainable infrastructure. Meaningful participation of and learning from Indigenous communities must be facilitated as they are central to advancing solutions to the climate crisis and oceans protection.
We encourage the G7 to continue the work of the G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter and to reaffirm their commitment to combat marine litter, plastic litter, and microplastic. If the G7 wishes to adopt a plastic charter, this should aim towards the global goal of eliminating the discharge of plastic litter and microplastic. The charter must be ambitious, legally binding, and coherent with other international initiatives. It must link climate change impacts to combating marine litter: reducing plastic must not encourage consumption of other fossil fuels.
The G7 must recognize the role of communities in fighting marine litter and acknowledge the need to enhance support to those communities by building waste management capacity, using circular economy strategies, as well as recycling and removing debris as a way to reduce ecological and climate impacts from plastic.
The climate and energy working group of the G7 global task force is a broad coalition of over 40 civil society organisations from G7 countries and around the world that has come together to deliver expectations from civil society as the world’s wealthiest industrialized nations meet June 8-9 for the G7 Head of States Summit and G7 Energy, Environment, and Oceans Ministers prepare to meet in the fall. CAN-Rac will convene the working group for the length of Canada’s G7 presidency.