There has been a huge amount of coverage of conferences so far this year, the G20 foremost among them. There was another conference that took place last week that was important to anyone interested in climate change policy but you would be forgiven for missing it. The Western press, in a fit of parochialism, ignored a meeting that could have far-reaching consequences for climate change policy, namely the World Ocean Conference held in Manado, Indonesia (read my previous post about the lead-up to the conference here).

Initiated by the Government of Indonesia, it brought together representatives from 80 developing and developed countries to discuss the role of the oceans in climate change. Among the topics discussed and pledges made:

  • The current lack of knowledge about what role oceans can play in mitigating climate change. In this context the US announced plans to give a grant of 0,000 to Indonesia to support ocean exploration;
  • To acknowledge that coastal communities are going to be adversely affected by climate change and that adaptation needs to start now. It was suggested that funding for adaptation and mitigation would go through the Global Environment Facility (GEF);
  • The signing of the Coral Triangle Initiative between Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines to protect the coral reefs in their respective countries. The importance of coral protection should not be underestimated – the WWF estimates that around 100 million people’s livelihoods depend on these coastal environments, environments that are under threat from climate change.

Changing the rules of the game

Perhaps the most significant development from a climate change policy perspective however was the creation of a ‘roadmap’ to get the Manado Ocean Declaration (MOD) tabled in Bonn in June with a view to being incorporated into the Copenhagen negotiations. Indonesia, by taking the lead, has gained an enormous amount of prestige and by potentially adding oceans to the agenda, Indonesia stands to gain financially: not only will Indonesia gain from the REDD scheme but also by being the world’s largest archipelago, any financial deal that involves ocean as carbon sinks would benefit Indonesia enormously.

It is pleasing to see Indonesia take the lead in an issue which has been dangerously neglected. While the motivation maybe merely another source of revenue for the government of Indonesia, this conference can only be good for promoting climate change policies within Indonesia. There are a number of struggles ahead of course: it is by no means certain that the MOD will become part of the Copenhagen negotiations, and even then practical issues like the lack of scientific knowledge about the role of oceans as carbon sinks, could prevent them from becoming part of the post-Kyoto deal. Even so, this conference has helped raise awareness of this issue. Well in some places it has.

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