SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — United States representatives and other leaders announced a landmark effort to address the impacts of climate change on the world’s oceans.

In a virtual press conference and livestream, U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) led the unveiling of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act on Oct. 20.

The act’s goal, leaders say, is to provide a roadmap for ocean and coastal climate resilience.

Joining Rep. Grijalva in announcing the act were Natural Resources Committee vice chair Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.); Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife chair Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.); head of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, “Queen Quet”/Marquetta L. Goodwine; Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.); John Podesta, who served as Counselor to the President during the Obama administration; former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator Jane Lubchenco; and Enric Sala of National Geographic.

The leaders who back the bill say that globally, oceans have absorbed 93 percent of the heat trapped by climate change, making them hotter and more acidic. 

They add that up to 21% of annual greenhouse gas emissions cuts can come from oceans. 

Leaders introduced the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act as a first-of-its-kind effort to stop the ongoing damage to Earth’s largest bodies of water while protecting the food, jobs and coastlines that millions of people depend on.

“Simply put, a healthy ocean can help us fight the climate crisis,” Rep. Grijalva said during the livestream. “Our ocean has absorbed over one third of our carbon emissions, and for that we face consequences like ocean acidification, sea level rise, shifting fish stocks and coral reef die-offs.”

He added that while one-fifth of the climate equation can be solved via the world’s oceans, climate proposals have long ignored the oceans in their solution plans.

“That’s why we’ve written the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, a bill that provides a roadmap for ocean and coastal climate resilience, and responsibly uses them to curb greenhouse gases,” Rep. Grijalva said.

The bill outlines a plan to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, prepare fisheries for climate change, improve coastal zone management, strengthen marine mammal conservation and confront ocean acidification and harmful algal blooms.

Rep. Grijalva says the bill also aims to improve coastal resilience and help promote resilience and environmental justice for U.S. territories, indigenous people and communities of color. 

“Crucially, the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act captures and reduces carbon dioxide by creating a pathway forward for renewable offshore energy and enhances natural carbon capture and storage in oceanic ecosystems, like seagrass beds, kelp forests, mangroves and a concept known as blue carbon,” Rep. Grijalva said.

“The way I look at it, we are in a reciprocal relationship with nature, you reap what you sow, and greedy polluters have harmed our planet for decades,” he said. “Now, we were all facing those consequences.”

Gullah/Geechee leader Queen Quet, who is based on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, also spoke at the virtual press conference in support of the bill.

“I’m pushing my community to support it because every letter in ‘ocean’ is addressed in this act: ocean protection, climate action, enhancing coordination of federal research, achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 14 and nature-based solutions,” Queen Quet said.

“We have our own action plan for the Gullah/Geechee Nation, and this new bill fits directly into it,” she added. “We want to get in the same boat with all of you and continue to row to a more healed shoreline that sits within our ocean, because if we take care of Mother Earth, Mother Earth will continue to take care of us.”

You can learn more about the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act by clicking here.