5 February, 2016

COP21: A chance to turn the tide on climate change


The Paris Climate Agreement offers us a chance to turn the tide on climate change and help improve the state of our oceans and coasts. John Tanzer, Director of WWF's Marine Programme, shares his views on our oceans and COP21.

If you had three words to describe the COP21 in Paris, what would they be? 
Hopeful, inspiring and commencement.

Could you explain what the Paris Agreement means for our oceans?
The health of the world's ocean is critically dependent on the climate and the effects of climate change. We will not be able to protect and improve the state of our seas and coasts unless the impacts of acidification, sea level rise, temperature increase, increasingly intense storms are reined in. Its as simple as that. We are playing catch up and from well behind. So the agreement reached at Paris offers a strong ray of hope. If we can keep the increase in CO2 emissions to a level that slows and caps temperature rise to 1.5 degrees or less then we are in with a chance. there was much discussion about the importance of ocean health and the clear links to climate change. Importantly the discussion at Paris often focused on the importance of ocean health for the well being of many hundreds of millions of people who live along coastlines and on islands- their vulnerability in the face of climate change was recognized and I think this was influential.

© Jürgen Freund / WWF
COP21: the start of a journey or the end of one?
Definitely the start. The world showed that we have at last woken up to the reality of the threat that climate change poses to us and future generations. The challenge is to keep the momentum of Paris going and build on the progress. There is no place or time to relax.
How can people contribute towards the success of the Paris Agreement?
The main way is to stay engaged and ensure that politicians and policy makers respond with meaningful action. Of course we can all do our bit in terms of our lifestyle and consumption choices but we must get major policy changes like a realistic price on carbon implemented.