Report Cover for “Turning the Tide: Biden Administration Leadership on Ocean Climate Action & Recommended Next Steps”

Ahead of World Oceans Day 2024 on June 8, the Center for the Blue Economy in partnership with more than 60 marine and environmental organizations released a report highlighting the Biden Administration’s leadership on ocean climate action and outlining recommended next steps.

A visual representation of the 10 areas of key actions needed to protect our oceans and our climate.

Many of our policy recommendations are now included in national law or policy frameworks—but our work is not done.

The Biden Administration’s leadership across federal agencies, combined with unprecedented ocean and coastal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, is positioning the US as a global leader to leverage the ocean as a source of climate solutions.  With an ambitious administration, strong ocean climate leadership in Congress, and a relentless nationwide network of ocean advocates, our country is ushering in a new era of ocean climate action. 

As climate impacts on our ocean continue to intensify, it will be critical to build on the strong momentum for ocean climate action generated over the last several years and continue to take bold action to address the climate crisis.

CARLOS DEL TORO, SECRETARY OF THE NAVY quote on the urgency of ocean climate action

What Can YOU do?  

  • READ the report which is brief, direct, and will give you the background you need to understand how important the ocean is to the climate crisis, and what we can do to harness ocean solutions.
  • CONTACT your lawmakers and urge them to take OCEAN CLIMATE ACTION.
  • SHARE on social media & talk about climate solutions with your community.  

A Brief History of the Ocean Climate Action Movement

The blue planet as a watercolor impression on blue/white wave background--the text is OCEAN CLIMATE ACTION PLAN

In 2019, the Center for the Blue Economy and partner organization Blue Frontier led a national coalition of NGOs, legislators, environmental justice activists, industry leaders, and academics to develop the blueprint for a national  Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP).  We published our initial report in July of 2020.

Blue background with blue wave of stars, text is OCEAN CLIMATE ACTION PLAN

The campaign was incredibly successful, leading to the inclusion of billions of dollars in ocean climate funding in two major federal bills—the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. In addition, the Biden-Harris Administration enacted many ocean climate executive actions and in March 2023 released its own U.S. Ocean Climate Action Plan that largely mirrors our recommendations.

We continue to hold the Biden-Harris Administration to account with a series of “Ocean Climate Action Report Cards.”  In June 2023, we published “Turning U.S. Ocean Climate Policy into Action,”  a report that specifically highlighted actions the Administration could take without Congressional approval to equitably and efficiently make ocean-climate action a reality. In June 2024, we published an update:  Turning the Tide: Biden Administration Leadership on Ocean Climate Action & Recommended Next Steps.”

Timeline highlights of the ocean climate action movement

Here is a brief timeline to call to mind how inspiring and effective this movement has been, building on 50+ years of climate science and 20+ years of climate advocacy:

Looking back, it is remarkable how a small group of people grew into a national movement that is fulfilling it’s intended purpose:  strong local and federal ocean-climate policy signed into law as soon as possible. The climate emergency is an ocean emergency.  There is no time to waste.

“It’s time for boldness because there is so much to do!” - President Joseph R. Biden.  

What are ocean-based solutions to the climate crisis? 

Ocean Climate Connection Explained

Our colleagues at the Ocean Defense Initiative have put out this great video explainer.

The ocean, the Great Lakes, our nations rivers and estuaries buffer the effects of climate change by sequestering carbon, protecting from storm surge, stabilizing weather patterns, and fostering biodiversity. Climate change and ocean health are often thought about as separate silos, when the two are interconnected.  Climate change is warming the ocean and changing their chemistry.  Without ocean health, the entire planetary water cycle and oxygen cycle are in danger.  The ocean sequesters huge amounts of carbon dioxide helping to cool the planet, but that may not continue with “business as usual.”  Climate change affects even those far from any coastline.  We must solve the ocean climate challenge together, and we have a short window of time to take action. 

Ocean-based climate solutions refer to investments and innovations in:

  • Clean Ocean Energy: It’s time for federal investment into research and development of wind, wave and tidal energy.   We must address the rising temperatures on the planet affecting the ocean and all life on earth and move towards sustainable energy.  The Ocean Climate Action Coalition supports (and we believe influenced) the Biden executive action to allow 30GW of offshore wind leasing by 2030.
  • Job-Producing Shoreline Restoration to Promote Climate Resilience:  Storm intensity is increasing, and sea levels are rising, making storm surges and flooding more intense.  The Ocean Climate Action Coalition supports calls for federal funding through NOAA to create jobs building living shorelines and natural barriers for our coasts, ports, and along inland rivers and the Great Lakes (the Civilian Conservation Corps).  Nature-based solutions will save lives, save taxpayer money, and create wildlife habitat.  It’s time to move post-disaster funding into pre-disaster planning.
  • Green Ports and Shipping: It’s time to rapidly accelerate the decarbonization of U.S. ports and the shipping industry, and in doing so, dramatically improve air and water quality in adjacent communities.  The Ocean Climate Action Coalition supports calls for federal funding through EPA to modernize and green our ports.
  • 30x30: It’s time to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas covering at least 30% of U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone waters to provide public benefit and increase climate resilience.  Marine protected areas have a proven track record of helping the nations fisheries and marine biodiversity to recover and flourish.
  • Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture: It’s time to catalyze rapid growth and innovation in a climate resilient and sustainable seafood industry, which includes aquaculture, mariculture, and plant and cell-based seafood alternatives.
No Water No Life No Blue No Green--Dr. Sylvia Earle

About the Ocean Climate Action Coalition

“The ocean is one of the most powerful tools we have to help head off the worst consequences of global climate change,” says Ocean Climate Action Plan signatory Mike Conathan in a recent Hill Article.  

The non-partisan Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP) was developed in collaboration with hundreds of organizations and primary signatory supporters beginning in 2019 with Blue Frontier and the Center for the Blue Economy acting as convenors.  OCAP, published in July of 2020, includes the best ideas from industry leaders, marine conservationists, academics, frontline communities, youth activists, and policymakers.   It is a template for strong federal legislation, and indeed, many components of our work have influenced Congressional and executive actions, initiatives, and laws.  After coalition building around the ideas in the Ocean Climate Action Plan, our next step was direct action—hosting meetings with top officials, and hosting the Ocean Climate Action (Virtual) Capitol Hill Lobby Day.  On April 13th, 2021, a small, core group of the Ocean Climate Action Coalition met with 11 key federal agencies including:  EPA Office of Environmental Justice, Dept. of Energy, NOAA, FEMA, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Transportation, Marine Mammal Commission, EPA Office of Water, Department of Commerce, White House Council on Environmental Quality/Office of Science & Technology Policy, and the U.S. Coast Guard.   On April 14th, 1000+ members of the public were mobilized and held meetings with 107 Members of the House of Representatives and their staff, and 33 Senators and staff.  The broad coalition (many of whom had never lobbied their elected representatives before) sent a clear message to our national policymakers:  you cannot solve the climate crisis without ocean health, and ocean health is key to solving the climate crisis.   Our advocacy work continues, and we are now working on a report card to hold lawmakers and the Biden-Harris Administration to account for their promises. There is no planet B.  We have no time to waste.

You cannot protect the oceans without solving climate change, and you cannot solve climate change without protecting the oceans--John Kerry


For questions and suggestions, please contact the Ocean Climate Action Coalition co-organizer:

Jason Scorse
Director of the Center for the Blue Economy

Blue Frontier Logo and Center for the Blue Economy Logo
Sierra Club and Inland Ocean Coalition logos