The ocean regulates the global climate by mediating temperature and determining rainfall, droughts and floods. The ocean has already absorbed over 90% of the excess heat trapped by the rising concentration of greenhouse gases. While the ocean’s ability to store heat has slowed global warming, this in turn is changing the ocean’s chemistry. The complex interactions between continued emissions of greenhouse gases and changes in the ability of the ocean to store excess heat will be a major determinant of the speed and magnitude of long-term climate change impacts, with global economic implications.
The ocean and coastal communities are being disproportionately impacted by increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Warming is leading to the melting of inland glaciers and ice, causing rising sea levels with significant impacts on coastal areas such as coastal flooding and erosion, saltwater intrusion, and habitat destruction. Communities and infrastructure are already under pressure from coastal flooding and erosion.
The OECD is helping countries address climate impacts on the ocean. Recent work has focused on building coastal zone resilience in the face of rising sea levels, mitigating climate change by aligning financial flows, and strengthening links between climate action and well-being.
Robust early warning systems can help mitigate the loss of life and property from coastal flooding.
Reducing nitrogen pollution to improve water quality can also help attain climate targets.
The OECD is working to support governments to adapt to climate impacts in coastal zones, such as rising sea levels and ocean acidification. The consequences are far reaching, with flood damage under high-end sea-level rise (1.3 metres) estimated to reach approximately 4% of world GDP annually. Marine ecosystems are similarly being severely impacted. The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C estimates that coral reefs are likely to decline between 70% and 90% with a 1.5°C increase. If global warming reaches 2°C, more than 99% of coral reefs are projected to decline.
Adapting to these impacts will involve making infrastructure resilient to changing conditions. In addition, protective infrastructure, such as sea walls, will need to be constructed to address the physical impacts of climate change. Coastal protection can reduce the future costs of sea-level rise by 2-3 orders of magnitude. However, in the context of rising risks, there is a need for a flexible, forward-looking approach to resilience. This includes integrating hard infrastructure with nature-based solutions (e.g. the protection or restoration of coastal ecosystems).
Responding to Rising Seas: OECD Country Approaches to Tackling Coastal Risks reviews how OECD countries can use their national adaptation planning processes to ensure that coastal communities are adapting to the impacts of rising seas. Specifically, the report examines how countries approach shared costs and responsibilities for coastal risk management and how this encourages or hinders risk-reduction behaviour by households, businesses and different levels of government. The report outlines policy tools that national governments can use to encourage an efficient, effective and equitable response to ongoing coastal change, such as land-use regulation that includes sea-level rise considerations. It is informed by new analysis on the future costs of sea-level rise, and the main findings from four case studies (Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom).
The policy paper “Climate Resilient Infrastructure” outlines the co-ordinated response needed to ensure that new and existing infrastructure networks are resilient to climate change impacts.
Offshore wind is a rapidly maturing renewable energy technology that is poised to play an important role in future energy systems. In 2018, offshore wind provided just 0.3% of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, boosting efforts to decarbonise energy systems and reduce air pollution as it becomes a growing part of electricity supply. Turbines are growing in size and maximum output, which in turn is delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms.
The IEA World Energy Outlook Special Report “Offshore Wind Outlook 2019” provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the global outlook for offshore wind, its contributions to electricity systems and its role in clean energy transitions. The report gives a snapshot of where the offshore wind market, technology and related policies stand today – and maps out how they may develop through to 2040.
The OECD Clean Energy Finance and Investment Mobilisation (CEFIM) Programme supports emerging economies in Latin America, South and Southeast Asia to accelerate finance and investments in clean energy including offshore wind. Working closely with some of the most promising emerging economies (Colombia, India and Viet Nam) for offshore wind development, the CEFIM programme aims to support the development of robust pipelines of bankable offshore wind projects. Analysis on derisking instruments used in the development of offshore wind projects and the role limited public finance can play to help leverage private funds (including from institutional investors) will be undertaken. The CEFIM programme aims to create a uniquely powerful collaboration between key domestic and international actors to accelerate the low-carbon transition.