The Pacific Islands consist of 98 percent ocean and two percent land. With Pacific people already impacted by climate change, the threats posed by ocean acidification are overwhelming, adding yet another layer to the long list they must suffer.
Amplifying our Pacific voice at every opportunity available, the UN Ocean Conference now underway in Lisbon, Portugal, has heard the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) call upon the global community, yet again, to do more.
“Small Islands Developing States are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of ocean acidification, especially in relation to coral depletion. Coral reefs play a key role in ocean ecosystems,” stated Hon. John M. Silk, the Minister of Natural Resources and Commerce of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Speaking on behalf of PSIDS during a special session - the Interactive Dialogue on Minimising and addressing ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming, the Minister stressed the important role of coral reefs upon our livelihoods and security.
“Weakened coral reefs also mean that SIDS are more vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels, increasing severity of tropical cyclones and increasing occurrence of king tides. Globally, over 50% of the countries that have a high dependence on coral reefs are located in the Pacific.”
Our global ocean has absorbed approximately 30 percent of CO2 released into the atmosphere. This CO2 combines with seawater to produce carbonic acid which acidifies seawater and depletes it of carbonate.
This will make it difficult for some marine life such as shellfish, sea urchins and corals to build their skeletons and shells resulting in a reduction in growth for many of these species and ecosystems.
This will result in reduced growth for many of these species and ecosystems. One study has projected that by 2050, coral reefs will dissolve faster than they can build their skeletons. Coral reefs play a role in dissipating 97 percent of the wave energy that would otherwise impact shorelines.
PSIDS calls for countries to strengthen international, regional, sub-regional and national efforts on measuring ocean acidification and data collection and the sharing of best practices relating to ocean acidification.
“We must also note that many countries, including Annex 1 countries under the UNFCCC, that have large Exclusive Economic Zones are not fully documenting the impacts caused by increasing CO2 emissions to regional food security, ocean industries or marine economies,” said Minister Silk.
“In order to address this existential threat, the Pacific calls for renewed commitment and focus on Sustainable Development Goal 14.3 on measuring ocean acidification through enhanced scientific cooperation.”
Pacific Islands are working with regional partners through initiatives such as the Pacific Partnership on Ocean Acidification (PPOA) funded by the Government of New Zealand in partnership with the Principality of the Government of Monaco.
This was implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Progrmame (SPREP). This was the only ocean acidification project that provided an initial understanding of the potential adaptation options and targeted Fiji, Kiribati and Tokelau. It came to an end in April this year.
Another initiative is the Pacific Islands Ocean Acidification Centre (PIOAC) was recently established through a collaboration between the Pacific Community, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, University of the Pacific, and Otago University with funding from the Ocean Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
This was established to develop and support regional expertise in monitoring ocean acidification including housing and maintenance of equipment for research and training in the region. It will also assist countries to submit monitoring data from the region to established OA data portals
"From this dialogue, we would like to see donors and development partners significally increase and simply access to climate financing for the ocean and coastal climate monitoring and research, risk assessements and remediation or adaptation measures," stated Minister Silk.
“The PPOA is an example that should continue to be supported and replicated as a measure to assist countries to understand how to address the impacts of ocean acidification.”
Interactive Dialogue 3: Minimizing and addressing ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming took place on 29 June at the second UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 2 July 2022.
The Second UN Ocean Conference is hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July 2022. The Pacific Islands are represented by a strong contingent, which includes the Leaders from Fiji, Palau and Tonga. Also present and engaged are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
For further information on the UN Ocean Conference 2022, please visit: https://www.un.org/en/conferences/ocean2022