Healthy and resilient ocean and coastal ecosystems underpin the world’s economic, political, and cultural systems, helping safeguard global populations from the growing impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.

Why the Ocean is Important in Climate Action

The ocean is critical to the global fight against climate change and to all life on Earth. It plays a central role in absorbing greenhouse gas emissions and provides myriad other services that underpin the world’s economic, political, and cultural systems.

The coast is home to nearly half of all people on Earth. Today, 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 100 km (62 mi) of a coastline.1 This number is expected to increase to 50 percent—4.25 billion people—by 2030.2

The ocean is a major driver of the global economy. The world’s ocean and coasts provide products and services worth an estimated US $2.5 trillion per year.3

The ocean is a primary source of food for the world’s population. Seventeen percent of all animal protein consumed worldwide comes from seafood, a primary source of protein for over 3 billion people.4

The ocean is humankind’s most effective buffer against climate change. The ocean is the Earth’s largest heat and carbon sink. It has absorbed 93 percent of the heat generated by industrial-era carbon dioxide emissions, and it captures nearly 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere every year.5

The Ocean-Climate Action Agenda

To help secure global health and prosperity, we are challenging governments and all sectors of society to commit to accomplish the goals in the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda.

Protect and restore coastal wetlands. Coastal wetland ecosystems—including mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrasses—are powerful “blue carbon” sinks, sequestering up to 5 times more carbon by area than terrestrial forests.

Establish and effectively manage marine protected areas. The social and economic benefits of effectively managed marine protected areas (MPAs) sizably exceed their cost, ensure food security, preserve biodiversity, and protect coasts and blue carbon ecosystems in the face of climate change and ocean acidification.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ocean industries. It is critical for ocean-based industries—including shipping, fishing and aquaculture, offshore energy development, tourism, and the international community—to set emissions reduction goals consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Invest in nature-based climate resilience for coastal and island populations. The effects of climate change—including sea-level rise, coastal storms, and flooding—are threatening coastal populations around the world.

Sustainably manage ocean fishing and aquaculture. To ensure food security in the face of climate change and ocean acidification, ending overfishing and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is critical, as is protecting habitats and increasing seafood traceability and transparency.

Include ocean-related climate measures in national goals under the Paris Agreement. Coastal and island parties to the Paris Agreement should include ocean-related mitigation and adaptation measures in their nationally determined contributions and adaptation communications as appropriate.

Ensure finance and support for communities on the frontlines of climate change to best implement ocean-related measures. Coastal and island regions are home to many blue carbon ecosystems and are on the frontlines of climate impacts, yet many lack the resources to implement ocean-related climate measures.

Enhance global ocean and climate research and monitoring. Many questions remain about how climate-driven changes in the ocean will continue to impact ocean resources and the human communities that depend on them, and the actions needed to respond to these changes.

A committee of government and nongovernmental representatives developed the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda and the related ocean programming for the Global Climate Action Summit.

California Ocean Protection Council • Benioff Ocean Initiative • Blue Carbon Initiative • Center for American Progress • Climate Advisers • California Coastkeeper Alliance • Conservation International • David and Lucile Packard Foundation • Monterey Bay Aquarium • Natural Resources Defense Council • Ocean Conservancy • Resources Legacy Fund • Surfrider Foundation • The Nature Conservancy • World Economic Forum

You can learn more about the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda here.

Who Has a Role to Play?

Ahead of and continuing after the Global Climate Action Summit, the ocean sector came together to define and commit to deliver on the goals in the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda as part of the Land and Ocean Stewardship Challenge. At the Summit, we shared and celebrated what has been achieved to date and announced new worldwide commitments to accelerate action by governments and all sectors of society

How Can I Accept This Challenge?

A lot of this work is already in motion. Now is the time to take climate action to the next level by stepping up to meet the ocean-climate challenges head-on.
If you are already working to meet one of these ocean-climate goals or would like to find out how you can set an ambitious commitment, we want to hear from you! Please email Jennifer Phillips, OPC Climate Change Policy Adviser.

Ocean-Climate Action Events

There are several ocean-climate events scheduled throughout the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, including a press conference and two sessions on Friday, September 14, as well as a handful of partner and affiliate events surrounding the Summit.

The Ocean-Climate Action Agenda is critical to achieving the climate mitigation and adaptation goals of the Paris Agreement, and to securing long-term global health and prosperity. The Agenda’s eight goals range from protecting seaside communities from sea level rise and reducing ocean industries greenhouse gases, to effectively managing marine protected areas to ensure food security, preserve biodiversity, and protect coasts and blue carbon ecosystems in the face of climate change and ocean acidification.

The press conference recapped dozens of affiliate and partner events and previewed the ocean-climate events at the Summit.


  • Deborah Halberstadt, Deputy Secretary of California Natural Resources Agency for Ocean and Coastal Matters, Executive Director, Ocean Protection Council
  • Julie Packard, Executive Director, Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
  • Mark Magaña, founding president and CEO, GreenLatinos
  • Tomas Anker Christensen, Ambassador, former Chef de Cabinet to the 70th and 71st President of the General Assembly, currently Adviser to the Special Envoy for the Ocean, United Nations, New York
  • Taholo Kami, Special Representative – Ocean Pathway, COP23 Presidency Secretariat
  • Liz Havstad, Hip Hop Caucus’ Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director
  • Doug McCauley, Assistant Professor, UCSB, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology
  • Nina Jensen, CEO, REV Ocean
  • Michael Northrop, program director for the Sustainable Development grantmaking program at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Healthy ocean ecosystems are among the greatest victims of climate change. They are also one of the most powerful tools we have to combat the devastating effects of climate change. Rising temperatures, increasing Arctic ice melts, acidification and oxygen depletion have led to the collapse of fisheries and severely threaten ecologically critical organisms like plankton and coral. Not only do marine plants produce 70 percent of the world’s oxygen, but oceans also play an important role in addressing climate change, sequestering 90 percent of the anthropogenic carbon produced to date. This session introduced the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda: a set of solutions that explore the ocean’s crucial role in addressing climate change, support community efforts to adapt to new conditions, and promote opportunities that foster better, more durable climate solutions worldwide.

Description: Building on the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda introduced earlier in the day, in this session national and subnational leaders gathered to discuss the implementation of the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda from the global to the local scale, cementing the importance of blue carbon solutions, the need to ensure that marine ecosystems are healthy and resilient and the many ways in which climate change mitigation and adaptation can be accomplished hand-in-hand across the 70 percent of the earth that is ocean.

Ocean-Climate Action Commitments

You can see other ocean-climate commitments on the Global Climate Action Summit website.

  • Coral Vita announced it would be collaborating with Mote Marine Lab and Gates Coral Lab to commercialize innovative, resiliency-driven, and super-fast growing methods of ‘coral farming’ to replace dead and dying corals in the Caribbean. The pilot will be in Grand Bahama and then extended to other countries in the region and the world.
  • An initial $1 million public-private partnership between the office of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Marc and Lynne Benioff was announced to support monitoring and research at the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
  • The International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification announced new country, state, and city members, including the Netherlands, Hawaii, Virginia, and Seattle, all of which are committing to take action to protect the ocean from the impacts of rising carbon emissions.
  • Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced a series of actions to help Virginia better address the impacts of carbon pollution from fossil fuels, including ocean acidification. Governor Northam has directed the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to identify ways to improve environmental protection in the Commonwealth.

Ocean-Climate Action in the News

Statements of Support

Share Your Support for Ocean-Climate Solutions

Sample Posts
  • Excited to join the #OceanClimateAction delegation at @GCAS2018 #GCAS2018 #StepUp2018
  • Taking care of our ocean in turn helps mitigate the negative consequences of climate change. Join us at @GCAS2018 to discuss #OceanClimateAction #GCAS2018 #StepUp2018
  • The ocean is critical to the global fight against climate change, and for this reason we are excited to join the #OceanClimateAction delegation at @GCAS2018 #GCAS2018 #StepUp2018
Publicaciones de Muestra
  • Estamos entusiasmados de unirnos a la delegación #YoPorLosOceanos en @GCAS2018 #GCAS2018 #TomaAcción2018
  • El cuidado de nuestro océano ayuda a mitigar las consecuencias negativas del cambio climático. Acompáñanos en @GCAS2018 para discutir el cambio climático oceánico #YoPorLosOceanos #TomaAcción2018
  • El océano es fundamental en la lucha mundial contra el cambio climático, y por esta razón estamos muy contentos de unirnos a la delegación #YoPorLosOceanos en @GCAS2018 #GCAS2018 #TomaAcción2018

Contact Us

To join the effort, make a commitment, or learn more, please contact Jennifer Phillips, OPC Climate Change Policy Adviser.

For media inquiries, please contact Jenny Grich at FleishmanHillard.

Learn more about the Global Climate Action Summit and the Land and Ocean Stewardship Challenge.

1U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development: Indicators of Sustainable Development, “Ocean, Seas, and Coasts: Percentage of Total Population Living in Coastal Areas.”

2Oz Sahin, “Dynamic Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability and Adaptation to Sea Level Rise: An Integrated Spatial-Temporal Decision Making Approach (Thesis),” Griffith School of Engineering (2011).

3Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, “Reviving the Ocean Economy: The Case for Action–2015” (Gland, Switzerland: WWF International, 2015).

4Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016: Contributing to Food Security and Nutrition for All” (2016).

5J. P. Gattuso et al., “Contrasting Futures for Ocean and Society from Different Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions Scenarios,” Science 349 (6243) (2015).

6Elizabeth Mcleod et al., “A Blueprint for Blue Carbon: Toward an Improved Understanding of the Role of Vegetated Coastal Habitats in Sequestering CO2,” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9 (2011). Yude Pan et al., “A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests,” Science 333 (2011). James Fourqurean et al., “Seagrass Ecosystems as a Significant Global Carbon Stock,” Nature Geoscience. 5 (2012).