Safeguarding the Blue Planet – Eight Recommendations to Sustainably Use and Govern the Ocean and Its Resources
Over 30% of the world’s population lives within 100 km of the oceanic coast. More than three billion people rely on fishing and other ocean-related livelihoods. The ocean is a biodiversity hotspot and moderates the climate, having absorbed around 40% of the world’s total carbon emissions. Oceanscapes provide an essential cultural good, offer recreational opportunities, health benefits, artistic inspiration and an entire cosmology and way of life for indigenous communities. However, anthropogenic pressures have seriously impacted the ocean and threaten its ability to provide human societies with the required climatic and ecosystem conditions for life on earth. The German G7 presidency has proposed a G7 “Ocean Deal” for the sustainable use, protection and effective governance of the ocean and its resources. Several ongoing global ocean governance processes require strong multilateral leadership and close alignment between the G7, in particular in this period of serious international tensions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At the One Ocean Summit in February 2022, global leaders have put forth first commitments to make 2022 a decision year for the ocean. Building on the final declaration of the summit and the UK G7 Ocean Decade Navigation Plan, we highlight that a G7 “Ocean Deal” should include provisions for 1) ambitious ocean governance to safeguard ocean health and climate (in the G7’s own waters and through leadership in international settings), 2) improving ocean observation, data infrastructure and knowledge sharing, and 3) financing the transition towards more sustainable interactions with the ocean. Specifically, we recommend that G7 states:
1a. Eliminate national subsidies that contribute to overfishing and push to finalize the related WTO agreement; step up international cooperation, financial & technical assistance to prevent IUU fishing.
1b. Reduce marine debris through a comprehensive global agreement on plastic pollution.
1c. Pause deep sea mining until risks are better understood and a transparent, inclusive and accountable institutional structure is in place that guarantees the effective protection of the marine environment.
1d. Expand marine protected areas in line with the proposed goal of at least 30% by 2030, and accelerate work in the coming months to successfully finalize negotiations for a legally binding instrument to conserve and sustainably use marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).
1e. Fully recognize the importance of the ocean-climate nexus and strengthen the ocean dimension in key climate negotiations.
2a. Adopt a legal framework and binding commitments for a sustained and shared global coordination of ocean observations and infrastructure on marine data, compliant with FAIR and CARE principles.
2b. Ensure long-term, guaranteed funding, clear institutional affiliations, coordinated and integrated data products to enable continuous, comprehensive observations supporting policy monitoring & evaluation
3a. Redesign and scale up ocean finance by increasing funding of early-stage, nature-positive and science-based opportunities, and large-scale investment into zero-carbon, resilient and nature-based coastal blue infrastructure, and by integrating ocean criteria into sustainability finance frameworks (EU Taxonomy, Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD)).
Financing a Green Future: The Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM) and the Green Impact Fund for Technology (GIFT)
The G7 should consider (i) an Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM) and (ii) a Green Impact Fund for Technology (GIFT) to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to low-carbon technologies in developing countries. ETM is a scalable, collaborative initiative led by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in partnership with developing countries that will leverage a market-based approach to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. It funds early retirement of coal power plants in developing countries using the proceeds from ETM purchased coal plants for low-carbon technologies. Pilots of ETM have been launched in Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. GIFT would reward emission reductions achieved in specified developing countries with any patented green technology whose monopoly privileges in this “GIFT Zone” are waived. To prepare for GIFT initiative, the G7 should immediately fund a pilot project featuring a single reward pool to be split among preselected green innovators in proportion to the emission reductions they achieve with their respective innovations, affordably priced, in a self-selected region of the GIFT Zone over a 2-year period. With preparation and assessment, a meaningful pilot could be completed for €35 million per annum over four years. These proposals complement to each other. ETM stimulates demand and GIFT reduces the cost to implement low-carbon technologies.
As G7 countries generate 25% of world greenhouse gas emissions, an open and cooperative G7 climate alliance can accelerate international climate policy in a transformative and inclusive manner. Building upon a proposal of the German Government (2021), we propose the following design elements for such an alliance:
- Membership conditions that benefit all members and are sufficiently ambitious to enable a pathway to genuine ‘net zero’
Reaching ‘net zero’ emissions globally by mid-century is key to enable limiting global warming to 1.5°C – the core objective of the Paris Agreement. The alliance must adopt membership conditions that keep the aim of 1.5°C alive. These include:
- a differentiated carbon price with a common floor, e., an effective price set in accordance with criteria that reflect different economic capacities, with a floor at 50 € in 2025 and 100 € in 2030.
- common energy sector policies consistent with a pathway to genuine net zero, including a 2024 removal of fossil fuel subsidies, a 2030 phase-out date for coal-fired electricity generation for OECD members that join the alliance and a commitment to immediately end the new development of upstream coal, oil and gas supply infrastructure;
- a joint effort sharing mechanism to achieve emission reductions based on Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC).
- Apply a ‘carrot and stick’ approach based on Article 6 and a differentiated CBAM to encourage alliance participation
‘Carrots’ should be designed as an open means to incentivize decarbonization outside of the alliance and encourage participation in the alliance. We recommend using international carbon markets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement as a carrot, providing an additional financial incentive to non-members of the alliance for low carbon development. A differentiated carbon-border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) is the crucial ‘stick’ to avoid carbon leakage, with differentiation based on development status and clear exemptions for Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Additional carrots should include differentiated carbon border levy refunds as well as targeted industry and energy partnerships.
- Use a ratcheting mechanism to raise ambition
A roadmap to ratchet-up the ambition of measures within and beyond the alliance is essential. Such roadmap should align with five-year NDC update cycles under the Paris Agreement, adjustable to align with national and global net zero targets and set clear milestones for expansion regarding sectors (from heavy industry and energy to land use) as well as countries (from G7 to G20 and beyond). Ensuring institutional continuity of the alliance requires a legally binding agreement that is independent from annually changing G7 presidencies and governed by a secretariat hosted by one or more volunteering member states, with a slim administration and explicit inclusion of a wide range of civil society representatives.
The health and vitality of our planet should not be in the hands of a select few individuals, organisations or governments. The wellbeing of the planet should be in the hands of each and every individual. In the current landscape, individuals and communities are unaware of the reality of the climate crisis and feel powerless to do anything to create change. Progress to an Equitable World Climate action must be translated into something K-12, rural, poor, urban, vulnerable and all communities can benefit from. To succeed, individuals and communities must be the driver of this transformation. Once aware as an individual, the second part of this proposition is to increase the sense of personal agency by connecting individuals with new common purpose into a group/club/community that becomes the source of more powerful collective agency to address the need and purpose. Through project-based learning and community endeavours, science and engineering challenges and the Emissions Clock, each person can witness their own efforts making a difference and feel incentivized and motivated to make better choices. Future Fridays, CAN – the Climate Action Network in the UK, CBS Climate Club in Denmark, EarthTeam in the US are already underway and represent networks we can connect. It is not enough just to look at the climate data, we have to take the data “in the round” including all economic, climate, human well being data, to actually understand how the impact of climate change is causing harm. But there is also good news: Benefits from mitigation of climate risk could improve well being, reduce waste, help people reconnect to the world they live in.
Biodiversity supports the water bodies, food systems, medicinal plants, thereby sustaining the livelihood of billions of people. According to World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report, around one million species are threatened to extinction in the next ten years. Approximately $44 trillion of economic value generation (over 50% of global GDP) is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services (WEF 2020). The same report further indicates that switching to a nature-based economy could generate 400 million jobs and a business of US$ 10 trillion per year by 2030.
Biodiversity loss means the extinction of plant and water species from land and water, which could greatly impair the livelihood of millions and the global economy. Human behaviour and lack of recognition of the importance of biodiversity for a sustainable future have resulted in biodiversity loss in both land and water. Living Planet Index shows that biodiversity declined by more than 70% between 1970 and 2020. According to the IUCN red list of threatened species, 40,000 species from the total assessed species of 142,577 are threatened to extinction. It is estimated that around 25% of the marine species live in a coral reef, which covers only 250,000 square kilometres of ocean and provides livelihoods to millions is under threat (Burke et al. 2012). Between 1990 to 2020, 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through human activities (FAO and UNEP 2020). Though deforestation has declined to 10 million hectares per year between 2015-2020 compared to 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s, it is still a significant threat to the species in the forest and planet earth (FAO and UNEP 2020).
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) 36,000 species of plant and animal has been included with different level of protection (CITES 2020). However, the number of endangered species traded rose from 61,241 to 1,299,284 in 2015, which marginally declined to 1,163245 in 2018.
Therefore, the G7 has to uplift the game of conserving biodiversity and ecology to save only one planet. With this end in view, it is recommended that the G7 announce that “biodiversity conservation will be included as one of the central pillars of trade and development through reward mechanism” at its Elmau Summit. As G7 has the resources, technology, market power to reward and punish countries, communities, and individuals that protect and conserve biodiversity and natural capital in the global north and south, G7 is the right platform to take leadership and initiative towards this agenda. Those communities and individuals who protect and conserve biodiversity and natural capital should receive preferential treatment in trade, investment, and grants/aids, while the countries, communities, and individuals responsible for the destruction of biodiversity and ecology should be treated contrarily. Finally, develop capacity and governance in the global south on biodiversity and nature conservation.
The G7 should regard the rising energy-consumption of the global adoption of digital technologies and applications as a serious threat to the world climate and therefore monitor the issue, raise awareness on the topic in their respective states, incentivize research across states to discover methods of reducing the energy consumption of IT and finally negotiate standards which could be the basis for an internationally agreed on “clean-IT label”.
The effects of climate change, identified as the biggest threat to global health in the 21st century, are already affecting health and well-being adversely, and impacts will aggravate in the future with drastic outcomes. Therefore, the inclusion and discussion of climate change and health as a priority of the German G7 Presidency is urgently needed. The G7 have the unique opportunity to increase ambition and demonstrate leadership in this area and pave the way for the transition towards climate resilient and environmentally sustainable, climate-neutral health systems. To safeguard health in a changing climate and to prevent worse effects, investments in workforce training, integrated surveillance, monitoring and early-warning systems, and adaptable and resilient governance structures are needed. Additionally, more and robust financing mechanisms are necessary to mobilise resources to prevent, prepare for, detect and respond to climate change related health risks that will increase in the years to come. While adaptive measures are imperative to safeguard human health in the prevailing climate change, governance for cross-sectoral climate mitigation is the way to effectively tackle the root causes of climate change and its impact on health. In this policy brief, we recommend that the G7 lead the transition towards climate resilient and sustainable, climate-neutral health systems, building on existing initiatives such as the COP26 Health Programme and committing to transforming their own health systems, as well as supporting other countries – especially low and middle income countries (LMICs) – in this transformation. We recommend that the G7 invest in integrated climate change and health surveillance, monitoring, early-warning systems and joint strategic foresight. Moreover, capacity building and training of the current and future health workforce is needed. Finally, the G7 could promote integrated financing of climate action in the global health architecture.
An effective, legally binding, and enforceable climate club needs to be immediately created. The climate problem has become a threat to humankind. The historical perpetrators are the western countries, but today increasingly major developing countries. The climate-club solution may prove to be multi-dimensional in that it may have benefits for famine, net greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, air pollution, et cetera. Nobel-prize winner William Nordhaus so aptly highlights how climate mitigation solutions must also be sought outside a multilateralism that, under its current form, has persistently failed to produce a legally binding international agreement on climate change when one considers the 30 years of its life, namely since the early 1990s. Such solutions must be well attuned to the realities of failed multilateralism, including the lack of adequate and binding targets, incentives, and penalties to achieve critical mass in global mitigation efforts, which is why Nordhaus calls for some complementary solution to multilateralism – namely the climate club model – that takes stock of existing pitfalls. The G7 (and G20) is a great platform to create an effective climate club. To solve the issue of potential resistance, membership could be designed in an open / gradual / incremental way.
This policy brief calls for a non-atomistic ecological approach. Among the G7 priorities, food and agriculture should be mentioned since they illustrate a non-atomistic approach of ecology, combining its four pillars: the environmental dimension (mitigating climate change and the erosion of biodiversity), social justice, health, and animal welfare. Food systems constitute 21% to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Citizens’ choices can make a big difference to climate change by reducing their consumption of meat, fish and dairy products. Simultaneously, the World Health Organization insists upon the necessity to create a healthy food environment that enables people to adopt and maintain healthy dietary practices and that reduces public health burdens of diseases and obesity linked to an excessive consumption of meat and foods containing high levels of saturated fats.
Therefore, it is necessary to generate support for change by helping farmers and ranchers to move from an intensive model generating pollution and disease to a more extensive model. Under current conditions, the problems cannot be changed from within the involved sectors. A predominant atomistic approach and the instruments in place in the policy fields of agriculture and food, in combination with a market-based production model that ignores the environmental, ethical and social consequences of such a model, are impeding the transformation efforts of single actors and creating wrong incentives to the detriment of all, humans and non-humans. The G7 and their partners should implement proactive public policies, both at the national and the European level, allowing for the transition to an ecosystemic agriculture, programming the end of intensive livestock farming and vegetarianizing diets and food supply at large. This applies to different sectors of public life, starting with public catering and education.
First, financial aid is needed to implement the logistical changes and to compensate and incentivize farmers who move from an intensive to an extensive agricultural model. An ecological transition income is proposed as an effective instrument to achieve these requirements. Moreover, a complementary income for farmers whose mission is not only to produce quality food, but also to maintain landscape and ecosystem services, is presented. The G7 should consider the implementation of these structural financial instruments.
Second, food prices need to reflect the negative externalities, such as the carbon footprint stemming from energy consumption, methane emissions and transportation. In order to achieve policy coherence, it is crucial to envision a re-discussion of the terms of trade treaties and economic partnership agreements that do not sufficiently take into account environmental standards and animal welfare. The G7 and the EU should build alliances and push for global trade rules promoting policy coherence with sustainable food systems and climate policy. In addition to that, an overall paradigm shift is needed in the treatment of living beings, not seeing them as mere commodities, subordinating them to norms of efficiency and competition.
Third, it proposes the vegetarianization of food supplies, starting with public catering, and the creation of linked educational programs for different age groups to encourage a healthy diet. The proposed food education programs will effectively support the individual and collective efforts to reduce the consumption of animal products, to reduce our carbon and ecological footprint, to support local production of quality food, and to rediscover the meaning of the daily act of eating. The latter is not reduced to a food intake. Its emotional, ethical and economic dimension deserves to be placed at the heart of any food policy.
A non-atomistic approach to agriculture and food places agriculture and food at the core of a political project whose axis is ecology, thought as an opportunity to promote a more just and sustainable development model. In addition to the mentioned goals in terms of environment, health and animal welfare, such an approach will strengthen social cohesion and justice. Starting with the implementation of the three proposed measures, citizens will gain confidence in themselves and in institutions, being involved in the cooperative project of the urgently needed ecological transition, that can relaunch a civilizing process to the benefit of all.
The world’s governments have pledged to fight climate change, yet many still subsidize fossil fuels, the combustion of which increases GHG emissions. Phasing out these subsidies is thus vital to combating climate change. What this Policy Brief proposes is that G7 Governments reaffirm their commitment to end their fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 at the latest, and financial support in any form for coal production or consumption by mid-2023. Parallel to these efforts, the Policy Brief calls upon G7 Governments to take the lead in providing full inventories of their fossil fuel subsidies, including those provided through their tax systems, and undertake comprehensive evaluations of those support measures. Improving transparency on the real costs and benefits of fossil fuel subsidies is necessary for informing public policies and triggering public debate. The results of these evaluations should then be used to drive comprehensive, evidence-based reforms of fossil fuel subsidies.
Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance and COP26 Private Finance Advisor to PM Johnson and the former Governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England, states in his book “Value(s) Building a Better World for All”, 2021, “There are three technologies needed to solve the climate crisis. First, engineering, where recent progress has been exceptional. … Two other technologies are needed: political and financial.”
It is proposed to build a “Digital Technical Knowledge Commons” ‘housing all things technical’, especially technology-based solutions and best practices, relevant to climate change-related goals and sharing this accessible technical knowledge and expertise with decision-makers and stakeholders locally, regionally, and globally.
It is expected that extensive use of such a vibrant “Digital Technical Knowledge Commons” will aid significantly in decision-making processes and will lead to faster implementation of ‘change’.
Sustainable implementation of required changes in society and infrastructure will be needed fast and at a global scale to mitigate the most dangerous climate scenarios caused by global warming, while, at the same time, adaptation measures need to be taken. Wide-spread deployment of enabling technology will be critical. This requires engaging a great number of stakeholders around the globe on a local, regional, and global basis. Locally applicable, accessible, contextualized, and expertly vetted technical knowledge and solutions in a practically implementable and readily accessible manner will thus be key; supported by harmonized and aligned measures and coupled with engaging neutral expert technical bodies such as the IEEE, ISOC, and others. With this type and quality of accessible information and expertise – housed on the ‘Digital Technical Knowledge Commons’- the benefits to sustainable implementations should include improved technical designs, greater aligned outcomes to agreed-upon measures and accelerated levels of scale to be realized.
We recommend that the G7 endorse the proposed commons as means to, directly and indirectly, complement a number of existing and new initiatives with the opportunity to realize success at scale.
In the references section, a table describing synergistic areas between the T7 Policy Briefs provided, and this one is shared.
G7 leaders have already accepted many important concepts related to the environment and sustainability. In 2021, the G7 agreed to “protect our planet by supporting a green revolution that creates jobs.” However, the challenge is that these announcements are mostly general statements of principle rather than presaging concrete actions, and any specific commitments tend to be either low ambition or not well-implemented. The sustainable development goals (SDGs) also have been insufficiently highlighted by the G7. This policy brief explains how a “green revolution that creates jobs” can be visualized through the SDGs. Among the SDGs, the key is Target 8.2 on decent work. Targets to achieve a “green economic transformation“ include those on sustainable consumption and production; decoupling the economy from environmental degradation; renewable energy and energy efficiency; sustainable agriculture, transport, and buildings; integrated water management; sanitation; and regulating unsustainable fishing and fishing subsidies. These objectives can create a wide range of jobs as well as contributing to environmental goals and social priorities such as improved health, food security, poverty eradication, and greater equality and inclusiveness. The G7 countries should act on the concept of a “green revolution which creates jobs,” which was adopted in the G7 Cornwall Summit in 2021 and make stronger efforts to implement the “green economic transformation” targets in the SDGs. G7 countries should also put more emphasis on creating jobs to implement related SDG targets. A “green revolution” or “green economic transformation” working group should be established to develop concrete implementation measures. To ratchet up the level of ambition, the G7 countries should annually commit to voluntary national actions towards the implementation of their collective commitments. The G7 should incorporate the SDGs into their communiques, especially the environmental dimensions. This will help to create clearer linkages with existing related international cooperation processes and increase the overall level of persuasiveness. G7 countries should expand the scope of monitoring their commitments to include environment and sustainability commitments, especially focusing on the SDGs.
Climate change against the backdrop of rising population, increasing inequality, and natural resource depletion threatens global food and nutritional security. To make the situation worse, 1.3 billion tons of food (one-third of total production or food sufficient to feed around 33% of the global population) is wasted every year (FAO, 2011). Further, the ongoing pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of fragile supply chains. Therefore, feeding an estimated global population of 10 billion by 2050 and achieving food and nutritional security along the continuum of availability, accessibility, and acceptability requires a shared commitment and coordinated action among policymakers. This policy brief points to the agriculture- climate nexus with the underlying water-soil-energy linkages, implying that farming is a cause and consequence of climate change. This brief further highlights the vulnerability of the smallholder farmers that constitute around 85% of the production units worldwide and are particularly vulnerable to climate change. They have the biggest stake in climate-centered food security.
The global institutional architecture that exists for promoting agriculture development, such as the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR); Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (FAO), to name a few, have done a commendable job in developing high yielding crop varieties and livestock breeds and promoting good agriculture practices that set global benchmarks for yields, quality, nutrition, and related parameters. These institutional efforts have helped the developing and developed countries accelerate their agriculture growth rates and, more importantly, expand the aggregate food production to feed the growing population. Yet, the smallholder farmers with micro land holdings of two hectares or less and the family-owned farms that are now at the receiving end of the climate change risks have not benefited much from the work of the global institutions. Now that they are exposed to more serious consequences of climate change patterns, a sharper institutional focus on the smallholder farmers is imperative to the future of food and nutritional security.
Raising the capacity and resilience of the smallholder farmers through linkage to the global value chain would determine the climate-resilient character of global agriculture, including cropping systems, livestock farming, fishery, agro-forestry, and allied activities that harvest food from nature. With this end in view, it is recommended that the G7 announce the formation of an “International Small Holder Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium” at its Elmau Summit. The Consortium may be funded out of the resources likely to be allocated by the G7 for the wider program of managing climate change (both mitigation and adaptation). More importantly, the proposed organization must be designed strategically to operate on the principle of Trusteeship. The spirit of Trusteeship should engender a sense of trust among the global community of smallholder farmers that there is that support and commitment from the research and development; agriculture education and extension; access to credit, and above all, the agribusiness trade for both inputs and farm output across the world, to appreciate the role and relevance of smallholders to the emerging paradigm of food security and enable them to collectivize and co-create institutions at the national and sub-national levels to protect and advance their interests.
At COP26, governments gave a clear signal that stronger targets and actions are needed, with a collective commitment to bring forward 1.5°C aligned 2030 targets this year. In this context, and against a backdrop of increasingly severe warnings from the world’s climate scientists, the 2022 G7 summit is an ideal place for an act of leadership by the wealthier countries in the world. This Policy Brief outlines three key policy recommendations for this June’s G7 summit that, if adopted, would demonstrate such leadership and maintain the momentum that was developed at COP26. First, the G7 needs to commit as a group to lower its emissions by 60% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels, and to strengthen NDCs this year to align with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature goal. Second, the G7 need to strengthen the implementation of their targets by passing them into legislation and implementing policies to meet them that are informed by the best available science. As part of this, the G7 need to commit to phasing out coal by 2030 and gas power generation by 2040, in line with what is needed to keep 1.5°C in reach, and to rapidly accelerate investment in renewable energy and storage. And third, G7 members need to commit to substantially scale-up their climate finance contributions, as well as to develop innovative financing instruments to accelerate the provision of accessible finance to the most vulnerable.
The world is facing an unprecedented series of clashing crises and threats, from democratic decline to health to digital disruption. Climate change exacerbates all of these threats and creates new ones. It also does not stop threatening human survival when other crises rear their heads. In the face of the current critical security challenge in Ukraine, it is imperative that strong climate governance does not become sidelined again, as it did in 2020 during the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic. At the G7’s Elmau Summit, the G7 needs to prioritize nature-based solutions for climate change, which can provide up to 37% of climate mitigation benefits and many other ones.[i] It needs to raise its ambition in protecting and restoring forests and peatlands, enhancing green infrastructure in cities, ensuring climate justice by empowering Indigenous Peoples and local communities, avoiding endorsing carbon capture technology and geoengineering, and creating a G7 nature-climate working group to help implement these proposals.
[i] IPBES. (2019). The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Summary for Policymakers. (pp.18).