Our Ocean Is Our Future

The ocean, weather and climate are linked. It is vital the COP21 climate talks in Paris secure a healthy future for our ocean.

A healthy, productive ocean can provide us with a buffer against the impact of climate change. So far it has absorbed around thirty per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions caused by humans. It has also absorbed around ninety per cent of the associated increase in heat in the past 200 years.

Put simply, our ocean has protected us from ourselves.

But our ocean is in crisis.

Sea level rise, ocean acidification and warming ocean temperatures threaten the ability of our ocean to buffer us against further impacts of climate change. In the Pacific Islands region, where I live, the impact is already being felt by many of us.

Entire villages are relocating to escape storm surges and rising seas.

More and more people are finding it hard to catch the fish they need to feed their families and fuel our local economies. In the Pacific region, fish consumption is three to five times the global average. Less fish means less food for our people.

Tragically, climate change has already claimed lives. Extreme weather events, such as cyclones, have the power to kill, injure and destroy.

In the Pacific, climate change is here. It is happening now. And it is devastating.

As a result, we need our ocean more than ever to continue to protect and nurture us. And now, at the climate talks in Paris, our ocean needs us.

For the sake of our most vulnerable island nations and the ocean on which they depend, the COP21 agreement must limit global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Exceeding this would severely exacerbate the particular challenges facing the most vulnerable smaller island states of the Pacific.

Reaching this goal won't be easy. It requires countries to set aside their differences to come together and, in some cases, put the interests of others ahead of their own.

But meaningful collaboration, which delivers for people and the planet, is possible.

In the Pacific it is this principle that has driven the formation of the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner.

The Office is an initiative of the Pacific's leaders and has the backing of twenty-two countries and territories.

It means we are uniting our approach to ocean management across 40 million square kilometres. That's an area equivalent to the landmass of China, Canada, USA, India and Australia combined.

Within this vast expanse we are working together on ocean-related projects and programmes, including the adaptation and mitigation strategies required to address climate change.

While it is early days, I am confident that we can achieve more together than we could ever achieve as individual countries and territories.

We have taken action, not just for our ocean, but for all of the world's oceans. And not just for our people, but for all of the world's people

In the Pacific the ocean is everything. Life, culture, security, safety, prosperity, health and wellbeing. In reality, the same can be said for all other regions of the globe. The ocean is earth's life support system. It gives us the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat.

That is why the agreement reached at the COP21 summit in Paris must have the ongoing health of the ocean at its heart.

Our ocean is our future.

Enquiries can be directed to the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner

This post is part of a "Voices from Small Island Developing States" series produced by The Huffington Post, in conjunction with the U.N.'s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (Nov. 30-Dec. 11), aka the climate-change conference. The series will put a spotlight on the SIDS countries, which are located in the Pacific, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, and is part of HuffPost's What's Working editorial initiative. To view the entire series, visit here.