NEW YORK (SEPTEMBER 20, 2023) - Ocean-based action can play a critical role to help the world avoid the worst impacts of climate change, according to a new study commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel). The new report finds that ready-to-implement ocean solutions could close the emissions gap in 2050 by up to 35 percent on a 1.5°C pathway, a reduction equivalent to four times the annual emissions of European Union countries.

The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Updated Opportunities for Action was published today as the 17 Ocean Panel Heads of State and representatives gathered at their annual meeting in New York. During the meeting, Ocean Panel leaders shared domestic progress and priorities in utilizing the ocean to tackle climate change and discussed near-term collective action to encourage the implementation of ocean-based climate solutions globally.

“This latest Ocean Panel report demonstrates the significant potential of ocean-based climate action in closing the emissions gap,” said Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Norway and Co-Chair of the Ocean Panel. “However, while the opportunities are there, the report also warns that they must be taken up urgently if we are to halt the worst impacts of climate change. Ocean-based climate action is the lifeline that coastal and ocean states must take advantage of to help benefit the climate while creating jobs and economic prosperity.”

The report, produced by 28 independent experts, representing four continents, 13 universities and six NGOs, takes stock of the latest science and knowledge, assessing the potential of seven distinct ocean-based sectors to provide solutions to curbing the worst effects of climate change. The solutions also contribute to the development of a sustainable ocean economy while protecting coastal communities from storms, providing jobs and improving food security. These solutions include:

•    Scaling ocean-based renewable energy
•    Decarbonizing ocean-based transport
•    Conserving and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems 
•    Utilizing low carbon food from the ocean 
•    Developing marine carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture and storage under the seabed 
•    Decarbonizing ocean-based tourism 
•    Reducing offshore oil and gas extraction

The report cautions that financing the solutions identified is an urgent, time-sensitive challenge that world leaders must grapple with now. Of all the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 14 (the global goal to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) is by far the least funded, representing just 0.01% of all funding for development. To fulfill the ocean’s potential for emission reductions will require a global trajectory of U.S. $2 trillion of targeted investment into sustainable ocean solutions between 2030 and 2050.

Offshore renewable energy is a major area of opportunity with ready-to-implement solutions providing potential savings equivalent to the annual emissions of about 800 million gasoline-powered cars (up to 3.60 Gt CO2e per year in 2050). Global pledges in offshore wind have approximately doubled in the last four years. If implementation follows these pledges, offshore wind may produce over 26 times the current electricity generating capacity of the UK (2000GW) in 2050. With this production, there is higher potential for offshore renewable energy to displace fossil fuel generation and associated emissions.

Healthy ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes are significant carbon sinks, making them an important, though overlooked, ally in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. Scaled up action to conserve, restore and sustainably manage blue carbon ecosystems could avoid or reduce emissions by up to 0.285 GtCO2e (equivalent to the annual emissions of around 76 coal-fired power plants) per year in 2050. The numerous co-benefits of these ecosystems make them key to achieving global goals and commitments under the UNFCCC and Convention on Biological Diversity (including 30 by 30) and SDGs.

Emerging technologies such as marine carbon dioxide removal could offer even greater emissions reductions, however the report highlights the need for further technological development and research into the potential impacts of such an approach before these can be considered as viable, ready-to-implement solutions.

The report is an update to the 2019 analysis, The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action. The updated 2023 report shows that the ocean continues to offer huge potential in mitigating climate change from ready-to-implement actions. However, in a message consistent the recent Global Stocktake report, the 2023 report also warns that time is running out to realize the ocean’s full potential. Rather than a cause for despair, the 2023 report provides motivation and guidance for ocean to contribute to the ‘midcourse correction’ needed to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement, which must be met with rapidly accelerated ambition and implementation to contribute significant emissions reductions in 2050.

“The people of Palau know as much as anyone how the future of humankind and the ocean are inextricably linked,” said Surangel S. Whipps Jr., President of the Republic of Palau and co-chair of the Ocean Panel. “With the extreme global heat and weather events in 2023, the UN Secretary General has stated that the era of “‘global boiling”’ is upon us. Urgent action is needed to address both the causes of climate change and its impact on the ocean’s health. This report further underlines this relationship and how investing in a sustainable ocean economy is not only an investment into ocean health, but an investment into a more stable, prosperous and equitable society.”

“With this summer being the hottest on record, and ocean temperatures reaching all-time highs, ambitious ocean-based climate action has never been more critical,” said António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. “I commend the Ocean Panel for highlighting the importance of bold commitments by all governments to maximize the ocean’s potential to help tackle the climate crisis and build a more sustainable and resilient world.” 

"Being an archipelagic state constituting of 99.9% of ocean, Seychelles understands the importance of ocean-based sustainable development," said Wavel Ramkalawan, the President of the Republic of Seychelles. "The ocean is our ally in achieving improved food security, increased clean energy production, sustainable socio-economic growth, and in tackling the climate crisis. Unfortunately, the impact of the climate crisis is undeniably disproportionately felt by Small Island Developing States, both in terms of contribution and the ability to absorb shocks. These innate challenges make us much more vulnerable and force us to think outside the box to seek innovative solutions to satisfy both our environmental as well as socio-economic needs."

“In this report, a diverse and global team of authors have demonstrated, using the best science available, that the ocean is one of our greatest allies in tackling climate change,” said Dr. Jacqueline Uku, Senior Research Scientist, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and Co-chair of the Ocean Panel Expert Group. “The recent Global Stocktake report warns that the world is lagging behind in efforts to reduce emissions, with an urgent need to ‘correct the course’ as soon as possible. The Ocean Panel-commissioned report highlights the significant potential the ocean can play in this, with a pathway to cutting emissions from ready-to-implement solutions. With the ocean on our side, we have the capability to take substantive action, should we choose to do so.” 

Treaty on Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)
In a joint communiqué published today, Ocean Panel heads of state welcomed the biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ or ‘High Seas Treaty’) agreement, calling for its early implementation. In a demonstration of leadership, Ocean Panel member countries were among the first to sign the ‘High Seas Treaty’ agreement today with others committing to follow in coming months. In March 2023, BBNJ Treaty negotiations concluded after nearly 20 years and, once ratified by all UN members the agreement will outline procedures to establish large-scale marine protected areas. The protection of these areas will contribute to achieving targets in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, like the ’30 by 30’ target which aims to protect at least 30 percent of land or sea by 2030. 

The Seychelles joins the Ocean Panel

The Ocean Panel also increased its ranks this week by welcoming the Seychelles as its 18th member country. President Ravel Ramkalawan’s government will work towards the shared aim of the Ocean Panel to sustainably manage 100 percent of national waters.

The ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Updated Opportunities for Action report is an independent input to the Ocean Panel process. The arguments, findings, and recommendations made represent the views of the authors. While the Ocean Panel supports the importance of the findings and recommendations identified, members have not been asked to formally endorse the report and should not be represented as having done so. 

About the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

Co-chaired by Norway and Palau, the Ocean Panel includes Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau, Portugal, Seychelles the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Together, these 18 nations represent 50% of the world’s coastlines, 45% of global EEZs, 26% of the world’s fisheries, 20% of the world’s shipping fleet. The Ocean Panel is supported by the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean. Based on the shared understanding of the need to improve the state of the ocean, the countries in the Ocean Panel are committed to producing national sustainable ocean plans with the aim of sustainably managing 100% of the ocean area under national jurisdiction. Learn more at World Resources Institute (WRI) serves as the Secretariat for the Ocean Panel. Learn more at