OSPAR and Climate Change

3 November 2021

Just a few weeks before COP26, ministers from around the North-East Atlantic collectively agreed to achieve seas that are resilient to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification at OSPAR’s Ministerial meeting on 1 October 2021.

The Cascais Declaration, which was adopted during the meeting in Portugal, reaffirms that climate change is the existential crisis of our time and that its effects on our ocean are profound. It confirms that the best way to protect the ocean from the impacts of climate change is to work through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and through the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C, and preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

OSPAR also adopted its North-East Atlantic Environment Strategy (NEAES) 2030 which will guide the work of OSPAR for the next decade. Addressing the climate emergency is at the core of the NEAES 2030 which includes three dedicated strategic objectives on climate change:

  • Strategic objective 10. Raise awareness of climate change and ocean acidification by monitoring, analysing and communicating their effects;
  • Strategic objective 11. Facilitate adaptation to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification by considering additional pressures when developing programmes, actions and measures; and
  • Strategic objective 12. Mitigate climate change and ocean acidification by contributing to global efforts, including by safeguarding the marine environment’s role as a natural carbon store.

These are supported by operational objectives which set out the actions OSPAR will take. One of the first is to protect important carbon sequestering habitats such as kelp forests. OSPAR will also describe the impacts of climate change on the North-East Atlantic as part of its next holistic assessment of the status of the marine environment, the 2023 Quality Status Report helping to deepen our understanding of the climate-biodiversity-ocean nexus.

OSPAR parties have demonstrated their commitment to climate action ahead of COP26. We will continue to work together and to join forces with our observer organisations in blue economy, non-profit and inter-governmental sectors. In this way we benefit from the shared skills, expertise and knowledge of scientists, industry experts and policy makers on the frontline of the climate crisis. Together we are stronger.