OA Alliance Participates in International OA Workshop Focused on Governments Taking Action

February 17-19, 2019
Dunedin, New Zealand

How can national governments work together to better understand the impact that climate change and increasing carbon emissions are having on our world’s oceans and coastal communities?  A recent workshop held in Dunedin, New Zealand aimed to address this question by convening the Commonwealth Ocean Acidification Action Group to discuss the science, monitoring and current research on ocean acidification and the role that national governments can play in hastening understanding and implementing actions that will address some of the worst impacts.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter on Ocean Action is an agreement by all 53 Commonwealth countries announced in April 2018 that aims to protect the ocean from the effects of climate change, pollution and over-fishing. The Commonwealth Blue Charter affects one-third of the world’s national coastal waters, helping to sustain livelihoods and ecosystems globally.

The ocean acidification focused workshop hosted participants from all over the world including Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu, just to name a few.

Workshop participants where quick to acknowledge that ocean acidification – like climate change – is a global issue with local variances and unique impacts.

In Fiji, ocean acidification monitoring is showing a drop on the pH scale.

“The ocean pH is dropping. This has been tremendously sped up or accelerated by the increase in the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, “said ocean specialist Kushaal Raj with the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Fiji.

Mr. Raj says satellite tracking provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows acidification and sea temperature rise this year spell more trouble for Fiji’s reefs.

At the workshop, the OA Alliance described our members’ efforts to create “OA Action Plans” which provide a policy framework through which governments can begin to think about how ocean acidification fits in within existing climate and ocean mitigation, adaptation and resiliency strategies and priorities. OA Alliance members New Zealand, Fiji, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the University of Washington Ocean Acidification Center were at the workshop and
presented on their own efforts to advance OA Action Plans or pilots that aim to better understand the impact that OA may have to important marine resources and ecosystems within their region.

To aid governments in this process, the OA Alliance created an OA Action Plan Toolkit, a strategic process for starting to develop a plan. The toolkit draws from a compendium of best practices and recommendations stemming from published state, regional, and national ocean action plans, as well as ocean acidification action plans or ocean acidification commission recommendations.

The OA Action Plan Toolkit makes recommendations for actions across five categories: 1) advancing scientific understanding; 2) mitigation; 3) adaptation and resiliency actions; 4) public awareness and outreach; and 5) elevating climate related impacts to oceans within international climate frameworks.

The OA Alliance encourages member governments to consider “right-sized” and local-specific actions within each category.

While the OA Action Plan provides a platform for governments to think about various policy implementation pathways, including increased funding for more advanced monitoring, it’s not intended to be a prescriptive set of policies or exactly replicable framework that will work for all governments.  Increasingly, the priority for member governments joining the OA Alliance is to learn about processes for convening the right set of actors that will produce a series of local recommendations. From there, governments can begin to identify how new or existing management frameworks can incorporate and sustain targeted investments and actions over time while also managing for force-multiplying factors like temperature and dissolved oxygen.

Just as some ocean acidification science is in beginning stages, policy response and management discussions are also in beginning stages, making early and frequent collaborations across government, scientists, and impacted industry at a regional level all the more beneficial.

The OA Alliance is grateful to have been a part of this important workshop and will continue to collaborate with the Commonwealth Blue Charter Secretariat and OA Workshop Chair New Zealand on sharing case studies, pilots and best practices that governments are developing to address this changing and complex issue.