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Oceans finally take center stage at COP25

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World leaders are gathered in Madrid through Dec. 13 to negotiate global actions in combating climate change at the 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC COP25). Negotiators have to deal with finalizing the detailed rules for implementing the Paris agreement, which entered into force in 2016, and ratified by 187 parties. Several difficult issues remain, such as how to establish mechanisms of carbon markets, a global carbon trading system that falls under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

COP25, the so-called Blue COP, also places greater significance on the central role of oceans in the climate system.

Currently, global warming is advancing toward a rise of 3 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels by the end of this century, even if each country fully implements its committed mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If this pathway continues, it is likely that we will fail to achieve the Paris agreement goal of keeping the world temperature rise well below 2 degrees, and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees.

The adverse effects of climate change are observed in various parts of the world, and extreme weather events are taking place more frequently in Japan as well. Typhoon Hagibis ravaged the country in October, causing serious damage and losses in both human and economic terms.

However, what is less well known is the ways in which oceans play a vital role as a climate regulator. Oceans cover almost 75 percent of the Earth and they are responsible for absorbing more than 93 percent of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions since the 1970s, and 28 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted since 1750.

The oceans absorb over 1 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every single hour. Oceans serve as a buffer for global warming, and their ecosystem services and functions are starting to deteriorate beyond the tipping point. Yet the Paris agreement mentions the oceans just once in its legal text, and negotiations about........

© The Japan Times