It’s 2050. To the naked eye, the world’s Oceans look much the same as they did three decades ago. They still cover 71% of the Earth’s surface; they still helps stave off the worst effects of temperature rise through their capacity for heat storage, absorbing 25% of the CO2 emissions; and they still house an abundance of marine life that support the diets of billions of people.

Many changes have occurred which have rendered our Oceans and coastal zones much healthier and more resilient than previously.

A vibrant, equitable and sustainable Ocean economy has spurred inclusive wellbeing around the world. We have succeeded in adopting a holistic and sustainable approach where Ocean production and protection go hand-in-hand. Oceans are 100 per cent sustainably managed, and the objective of protecting 30 per cent of the world’s Oceans by 2030 has been met and even exceeded.

The impulse for many of these changes came from the collective decision by world governments to promote Ocean-related natural solutions as a key part of global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Particularly critical were measures to strengthen the carbon-storage capacity of coastal blue carbon ecosystems (mangrove forests, sea grass meadows and saltwater marshes). Ongoing efforts to protect and restore these ecosystems reduced their release of carbon and increased the removal of atmospheric carbon. Numerous social benefits also resulted, from improved storm and flood protection to the provision of sustainable livelihoods (especially in fisheries).

Companies underwent a radical transformation to conduct nature-positive activities and significantly contribute to reverse the loss of these ecosystems.

Recent decades also saw additional major transformations in marine-linked industries. The shipping sector is particularly notable in this respect, with advances in sustainable fuels making long-distance ocean transport far cleaner than previously.

In parallel, energy companies are finally tapping the potential of the Oceans’ innate power. After decades of large-scale investment, offshore wind farms now occupy an important place in the global clean electricity mix.

The aquatic food industry adopted sustainable and climate-smart practices. The supply chain and consumption patterns fostered responsible consumption, improved diets and minimized loss and waste. The industry has sustainably increased its production to feed a population of 10 billion.

While our Oceans still face many challenges, the risk of them becoming a tipping point for catastrophic climate change has receded significantly.


A community’s fight for resilience: Saving Sri Lanka’s vulnerable marine ecosystems

As part of a new series to support the Ocean Breakthroughs, the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions and the Edges of Earth expedition explore how a community is adapting to and combating the impacts of climate change in the capital of Sri Lanka. The Edges of Earth team had the opportunity to spend two weeks living alongside Hafsa Jamel (pictured), learning about their work supporting local nature-based solutions that aim to mitigate climate challenges in their home country.


A global coalition forging coral reef resilience

In April 2024, NOAA and ICRI scientists confirmed the fourth global coral bleaching event, highlighting the escalating impacts of climate change on coral reefs. This has spurred initiatives like the Coral Reef Breakthrough and the Global Fund for Coral Reefs to enhance protection, double effective conservation areas, and mobilize significant funding for restoration efforts.


Join the Race

The global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery.

How to take action
  • Strengthen NDCs to explicitly include coastal and marine nature-based solutions to adaptation and mitigation, by 2025.
  • Adopt science-based plans for climate-smart Marine Protection Areas, and guarantee at least 40% implementation by 2040.
  • Introduce robust coastal protection measures against the risk of populations becoming displaced and implement policies to address the needs of those already displaced.
  • Develop science based sustainable use of ocean resources, ensuring increased resilience to the impacts of climate change by 2030.
  • All major seafood companies to unilaterally ban overfishing and all seafood buyers and retailers to work collectively to eliminate illegal or unregulated fishing from the seafood supply chain, by 2021.
  • Dedicate significant capital investment and R&D to scale up the supply of sustainable ocean-based renewable energy production, by 2025.
  • All major retailers and consumer goods companies to commit to eradicating single-use plastic packaging and to taking meaningful steps to prevent plastic and other pollutants entering the ocean.
  • Support the design and creation of effective market mechanisms to aid the financing of blue carbon ecosystem projects.
  • Help finance the large-scale deployment, based on ecological and economical analysis, of offshore power projects and tidal power facilities, including targeted investments to promote new innovative technologies in both these sectors.
  • Identify and back technology innovators with early-stage, high-potential solutions for reducing the carbon footprint of the shipping industry.
  • Support research into, and the development and demonstration of, resilient and cost-effective solutions for the promotion and protection of blue carbon ecosystems.
  • Develop technological and design innovations to make large-scale tidal energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, and economically viable.
  • Support efforts in the fishing industry to develop sustainable liquid biofuels, while also helping it to resolve the challenge of ‘black carbon’.
  • Work with governments to include the explicit recognition of oceans as a common good of humanity in the preamble of the High Seas Treaty by 2021.
  • Look for way to support conservation groups and others that are working to reduce ocean pollution and/or to protect and restore vulnerable coastal ecosystems.
  • Send a strong demand signal to governments and industry concerning support for restored ocean and coastal habitats by integrating these into leisure and recreational activities.