Connecting the Dots: Oceans, Climate, Policy, and Research in the Pacific Ocean

Wednesday 13 March 2019 - 14:00 to 16:00
NOC Southampton - Henry Charnock Lecture Theatre (Waterfront Campus).
Professor Elisabeth Holland, Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, University of the South Pacific

As a regional university serving the governments of 12 Pacific Island countries and territories, including 5 Least Developed Countries, the University of the South Pacific plays a unique role at the science-policy interface to provide research to support ocean stewardship for a vast area of the Pacific ocean.  The Paris Agreement is a critical cornerstone for the survival of Pacific nations. Key demands were made in declarations by the leaders of 15 Pacific island countries in advance of the Paris negotiations. The result is an international commitment to: a long-term temperature goal limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius; a periodic five-year review; and increasing ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some 195 member nations have signed the accord. In keeping with the vagaries of shifting national positions on climate change, though, Australia established and then two years later abolished its carbon tax—the world’s first. President Trump announced the U.S. was pulling out of the Paris Agreement altogether. These moves stand in stark contrast to the commitment and leadership of the Pacific nations, which was reinforced by the United Nation’s first-ever Oceans Conference , hosted by Fiji and Sweden, and held just after Trump’s announcement.  

A global call to action at the UNOC underscored the connections between healthy oceans and climate change. Fiji as the first Big Ocean State (BOSS), or in United National Lexicon, Small Island Developing States, to serve as the President of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP23 has the opportunity to catalyze transformation by creating ocean-climate policy solutions. An ocean acidification (OA)/carbon tax imposed on carbon emitting nations to balance the ocean service provided by the absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide into the worlds oceans and thereby acidifying our oceans, our critical natural resource. The OA tax could then invested to protect the health of oceans and coasts and the vulnerable Big Ocean StateS (BOSS), like the Pacific Islands. Carbon tax revenues could be invested in sustaining and generating ecosystem services and protecting ocean and thus islands resilience. For example, by investing OA tax revenue in replanting coastal mangrove or dilo seedlings, we could provide storm protection, create subsistence fisheries, increase community resilience and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems support the establishment of sustainable blue economies that do not rely on intensive fossil fuel emissions and become the foundation for truly sustainable ocean economies for our big ocean states.

Professor Holland is internationally recognised for her work in the Earth System. She is an author of four of the five IPCC reports having served as a US, German and Fiji representative and a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She is passionate about working collaboratively with communities to support climate resilient development practices that protect the health of the Pacific’s Big Ocean StateS (BOSS) and led USP’s delegation to support Pacific governments in negotiating the Paris Agreement.

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