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, especially in economically and socially vulnerable communities.

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 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 what actions are 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 September’s Global Climate Action Summit, the ocean sector is coming together to define and commit to deliver on the goals in this Ocean-Climate Action Agenda as part of the Land and Ocean Stewardship Challenge. At the Summit, we will share and celebrate what has been achieved to date and announce 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 two sessions on Friday, September 14, as well as a handful of partner and affiliate events surrounding the Summit.

Schedule of Ocean-Climate Affiliate and Partner Events

Schedule of Official #GCAS2018 Ocean-Climate Events

Date: Friday, September 14, 9:00am-10:30am PST
Location: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
Livestream: Yes

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 will introduce 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.


Dance from the Islands
Fijian Drummers, Rako Pasefika

A Welcome from the West Coast
Julie Packard, Executive Director Monterey Bay Aquarium

Washington State and the Oceans
Governor Jay Inslee, Washington

Our Ocean Planet
Lehua Kamalu, Captain, Polynesian Voyaging Society
Nainoa Thompson, President, Polynesian Voyaging Society

Climate is an Ocean Issue: The Ocean-Climate Action Agenda
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, United States of America

Island Nations and The Ocean-Climate Action Agenda
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Republic of Fiji

Implementing the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda
Moderator: Cristina Mittermeier, Photographer, National Geographic


Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO Conservation International

Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, Oregon State University

Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Environmental, Cultural and Human Rights Advocate

Commitments for the Coasts and Oceans
Secretary John Laird, California Natural Resources Agency

Date: Friday, September 14, 2:30pm-4:00pm PST
Location: Moscone Center South, 747 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
Livestream: Yes

Description: Building on the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda introduced earlier in the day, in this session national and subnational leaders will gather 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.

Peter Thomson, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean

Armchair discussion: Integrating oceans into the climate dialogue

Moderator: John Podesta, Founder and Director, Center for American Progress


Minister Inia Seruiratu, Minister for Agriculture, Rural & Maritime Development, and National Disaster Management, Fiji

Julio Cordano, Head of the Department of Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chile

Eva Svedling, State Secretary to the Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, Sweden

Subnational and Business Leadership for the Oceans

Moderator: Ken Alex, Director, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, California


Nina Jensen, CEO, REV Ocean

The Honorable David Speirs, Minister for Environment and Water, South Australia

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu

Supporting Thriving Cultures Under Change: The Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition

Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation

Value of Partnerships in Climate-Smart Ocean Governance

Moderator: Janis Jones, CEO, Ocean Conservancy


Daniela V. Fernandez, Founder & CEO, Sustainable Ocean Alliance

Kosi Latu, Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

Rep. Kristin Jacobs, Florida House of Representatives

Commitments Supporting the Ocean Action Agenda

Assemblymember Mark Stone, 29th California Assembly District

Sam Teicher, Founder and Chief Reef Officer, Coral Vita

Closing: Implementation and Inspiration Carrying to COP24

Peter Thomson, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean

Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Assistant Director General of UNESCO

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).