Article

Ocean commitments under the Paris Agreement

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Abstract

Under the Paris Agreement nations made pledges known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which indicate how national governments are evaluating climate risks and policy opportunities. We find that NDCs reveal important systematic patterns reflecting national interests and capabilities. Because the ocean plays critical roles in climate mitigation and adaptation, we created a quantitative marine focus factor (MFF) to evaluate how governments address marine issues. In contrast to the past, when oceans received minimal attention in climate negotiations, 70% of 161 NDCs we analysed include marine issues. The percentage of the population living in low-lying areas—vulnerable to rising seas—positively influences the MFF, but negotiating group (Annex 1 or small island developing states) is equally important, suggesting political motivations are crucial to NDC development. The analysis reveals gaps between scientific and government attention, including on ocean deoxygenation, which is barely mentioned. Governments display a keen interest in expanding marine research on climate priorities.

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Acknowledgements

We thank L. Ras, M. Beckwith and Y. Eddebbar for assistance with analysing NDCs that were unavailable in English, B. Semmens for statistical advice, I. Rhee and A. Giron for assistance with data presentation, R. Norris for comments, C. Turley, H.-O. Pörtner, B. Cicin-Sain, J. Cordano and R. Jumeau for insightful discussion, and A. van der Graaf, O. Aburto, T. Whitty and S. Verma for use of photographs. N.D.G. was supported by National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant no. DGE-1144086. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92083-0202, USA

    • Natalya D. Gallo
    •  & Lisa A. Levin
  2. Integrative Oceanography Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093, USA

    • Natalya D. Gallo
    •  & Lisa A. Levin
  3. School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093, USA

    • David G. Victor
  4. Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093, USA

    • David G. Victor
  5. The Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC 20036, USA

    • David G. Victor

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Contributions

N.D.G. performed the analysis and wrote the manuscript, D.G.V. and L.A.L. contributed equally in providing guidance on the analysis and revising the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Natalya D. Gallo.

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