Commonwealth study finds increased focus on ocean-climate action

17 March 2023
An underwater photograph of a shoal of fish circling the sun above

New research has found that most of the Commonwealth’s coastal and island states have mainstreamed ocean-based actions into their national climate commitments.

The Commonwealth Secretariat commissioned a study of its 49 member countries that border the sea (out of a total 56) to find out how ocean activity had been integrated in their Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) – the 5-yearly reports which capture a nation’s climate ambitions under the Paris Agreement.

The findings showed that three out of five (59 percent) of the countries surveyed have included ocean-related themes in their NDCs. These include actions such as conserving mangroves, protecting coral reefs, cutting emissions from shipping and exploring ocean-based renewable energy.

The average figure was higher for small island developing states, where three quarters (75 percent) had mainstreamed ocean action in their NDCs. In comparison, just one third of developed countries (categorised as ‘very high human development’ in the UN Human Development Index) had done the same.  

Actions around the climate-critical habitats and ecosystems were most common, while those on ocean-based energies were the least reported.

Missed opportunities

Ms Heidi Prislan, Blue Charter Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said:

“It is very encouraging to see that the role of the ocean in tackling climate change is increasingly recognised. However, there is more to be done. While three out of five countries have mainstreamed ocean action into national climate ambitions, it also means two out of five have not.”

In addition, the study found that while some countries have publicly announced greater ambitions around the ocean-climate nexus, including associated plans and actions, these were not captured in their most recent NDCs.  This oversight could present a missed opportunity for mobilising resources for ocean action, as many funders refer to countries’ NDCs as a guide for national climate change priorities to target. 

Dr Nick Hardman-Mountford, Head of Oceans and Natural Resources, added:

“We hope this paper will help raise awareness about the suite of opportunities at the ocean-climate nexus which could be accelerated. In particular, updating or revising future NDCs with more blue actions could reap more benefits for member states.”

Finally, the paper highlighted some good practices in various Commonwealth countries, which could serve as catalysts for further action.

The report was released in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 this November-December in Dubai, UAE, which will also see the conclusion of the first ‘Global Stocktake’ – a periodic review of the world’s progress on climate action under the Paris Agreement.

View the full report: 'Blueing' the NDCs - A Review of the Nationally Determined Contributions of Commonwealth Coastal and Island Countries for Ocean-Based Actions and Commitments

Media contact

  • Josephine Latu-Sanft  Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • +44 20 7747 6476  |  E-mail