UD experts advise international community on global ocean, climate issues
Bunaken National Marine Park is located on the north side of Sulawesi, where the World Ocean Conference was held.
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2:15 p.m., June 9, 2009----Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country, but this nation of more than 17,000 islands is especially susceptible to the effects of climate change, including sea-level rise, increased flooding, and threats to food security and human health.

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It was therefore appropriate that the government of Indonesia, led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, organized the World Ocean Conference (WOC) and the Coral Triangle Initiative in Manado, Indonesia, May 11-15.

Intended to bring the world's attention to the issues of oceans and climate, the conference was especially timely because global climate negotiations through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are taking place in Bonn, Germany, and are expected to culminate with a new global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in December 2009 in Denmark.

Researchers at the University of Delaware's Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy, located in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) and led by Biliana Cicin-Sain, spent the last two years helping the Indonesian government prepare for the conference.

The WOC highlighted the relationship between climate change and oceans, coasts, and small island developing states. Government representatives from 76 countries adopted the conference's Manado Oceans Declaration, which stresses the importance of including oceans in climate negotiations and urges nations to consider the impacts of climate change on oceans, vulnerable ecosystems, and coastal communities.

The Mangone Center's Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, with funding support of the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, organized the WOC's Global Ocean Policy Day (GOPD). This day of dialogue represented a major opportunity for high-level government officials, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, industry representatives, and scientists to discuss the importance of oceans in climate change, mitigation and adaptation strategies, and financing issues.

The GOPD produced several recommendations for the UNFCCC process, including using precautionary approaches to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging ocean-based renewable energies, employing adaptation strategies that ensure the resilience of coastal and marine ecosystems, and mobilizing a sufficient level of adaptation and mitigation financing for the most vulnerable coastal populations in small island developing states and developing countries. The GOPD statement is available in PDF format.

Cicin-Sain also participated in a meeting that featured the heads of state from the six Coral Triangle countries -- Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste. The meeting formalized the Coral Triangle Initiative, a partnership designed to protect the marine and coastal resources of those countries. In addition to the Coral Triangle governments, the initiative enjoys the support of partner governments in Australia and the United States, as well as the international nongovernment organizations World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and Conservation International.

“These activities not only advance international collaboration on some of our planet's most pressing environmental issues, but they also serve as a great example of UD's global initiative,” noted Cicin-Sain.

In June, the Global Forum will highlight the results of the conference at the climate change talks in Bonn and at the United Nations in New York.

Story and photo by Caitlin Snyder