Ocean acidification: a global issue that needs global action
Ocean Conference – « Combating Ocean Acidification: Join the OA Alliance and create Ocean Acidification Action Plans to protect vulnerable resources in your region » – Speech by Mrs. Catherine Chabaud, Delegate for marine and coastal ecosystems, French Ministry for an ecological and solidary transition– United Nations headquarters – 8 June 2017
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we know, minimizing and addressing ocean acidification is one of the objectives under SDG14. We are all here in New York this week to look for solutions.
The acidity level of the ocean has changed by about 30% since before the Industrial era, a rate of change faster than anything we have seen in the past 300 million years.
France, which is in charge of the second largest maritime area in the world, is particularly concerned with the issue. This threat poses many challenges, ecological, social and economic, which require both national and international mobilization. Acidification is linked to climate change, which is the reason why it was highlighted at COP21 in Paris.
As a first step, France wishes to strengthen the knowledge about and understanding of the phenomenon.
Our contribution to the global efforts will focus on the mobilization of scientists, through an ambitious research program, for nearly one million US dollars.
Eight projects have been initiated in 2017, which cover a wide range of topics: the impact of acidification on coral reefs, unicellular algae, bacteria, fish, oysters, abalone or cuttlefish. They combine numerous laboratories and research institutes in mainland France, French Polynesia and Monaco.
The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Ocean and Cryosphere, which France, along with many States, supported from the outset, will synthesize in a more precise way current scientific knowledge, including on acidification and its impacts on marine ecosystems and resources.
From a global policy perspective, we already know that we need to act without waiting. That is why, at the "Our Ocean" conference in Washington in September 2016, France joined the International Coalition Against Ocean Acidification. I wish to acknowledge the important work undertaken by the Coalition. France will be pleased to share the results of the research work with the members of the Coalition.
Acidification is a serious threat to the integrity and proper functioning of marine ecosystems. But nutrient pollution, or eutrophisation, makes acidification worse. This is because the extra nutrients end up causing more respiration, increasing the CO2 in the water while at the same time drawing down the dissolved oxygen levels. The fight against acidification is manifolds.
This is the reason why, since the Paris Climate conference and the recognition of the ocean as a major regulator of the global climate, the France, with its partners, has engaged in many fields to find concrete solutions.
The Alliance for Ocean and Climate Initiatives, a federation of initiatives to integrate the ocean into the Agenda for Action, which includes the International Coalition on Ocean Acidification, is particularly committed to advocating and supporting concrete and collaborative actions.
At the global political level, the most obvious of such concrete actions is the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Despite the withdrawal of the USA, a majority of countries, many sub-national authorities and countless partnerships, organizations and individuals have expressed their strong willingness to carrying on implementing the agreement. The dynamics initiated in Paris in December 2015 goes on. We are confident that we will stand together as a global community to take the right decisions and make the right actions for our ocean.
Ocean acidification is a global issue, but there are myriads of things we can do at local, state and national scales to help and boost the resilience of our marine ecosystems. Reducing nutrient pollution through the use of smart agricultural practices, restoring wetlands, protecting coral reefs and other crucial habitats through marine protected areas, will increase ecosystem resilience to threats like acidification, in addition to delivering many other benefits. This is why the International Coalition Against Ocean Acidification is an important mechanism.