Ocean Optimism: Leadership from communities, states, and countries

Through our class discussions, we have noticed the remarkable leadership that local communities, states, and countries are developing in order to tackle  problems facing the ocean, including climate change, pollution, and overfishing.

Photo: Paris Climate Agreement, Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Paris Climate Agreement, Wikimedia Commons

US Alliance States

US Climate Alliance States. Graphic: Wikimedia Commons

US Climate Alliance States. Graphic: Wikimedia Commons

The US Federal Government recently declared that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an international agreement regulating and ultimately reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The accord was signed by 195 countries to “succeed in reducing emissions in order to protect the health of the oceans and other natural systems on which the planet depends.” Despite the United States renouncing themselves from the agreement, fourteen states have pledged to stand by its guidelines. The U.S Climate Alliance is led by governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Jerry Brown of California. The Alliance also includes other states such as Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Puerto Rico. Overall, the U.S. Climate Alliance members represent more than 36% of the U.S. population, contributes up to $7 trillion in GDP, and provides 1.3 million clean energy jobs. The goal of the alliance is to provide a platform for States that want to continue upholding the goals of both the Paris Agreement and of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. These state governments are making headway in terms of producing environmentally sustainable products that will appeal to our society’s budget. The Alliance States are working to create and enforce new laws that will align the state’s goals with those written in the Paris Agreement so that it can remain alive in the United States to some degree.  Some interesting examples:  in California, there are tax rebates citizens can receive if they are willing to invest in solar panels to provide their electricity. Similarly, California citizens can replace their lawn with artificial turf as a way to conserve water and receive a tax rebate for every square foot of lawn removed. In New York, the government has created a “green bank” that will lower the economic risks for new, environmentally friendly technology introduced into the market. This was initiated to motivate more companies to invest their efforts into green technology without the threat of harsh of repercussions that often occur when there is a lack of governmental support.

Leadership from the U.N.

At the UN Ocean Conference, countries from across the globe met to discuss ways to raise awareness and take steps towards environmental sustainable cooperation through a “Call to Action.” The United Nations has also come up with many proposals to protect the ocean ecosystems. One of their proposals includes a movement to restore the ocean and coastal communities through many partnerships with different international governments as well as industries that rely directly on the oceans for its vitality. One of their main goals is to prioritize ocean research so we can broaden our understanding of its relation to humans and industries. Another objective is to reduce the amount of waste entering the oceans and to “[incentivize] market-based solutions.” If corporations are incentivized to help the environment, it would be a huge win for environmentalists since corporations are the main producers of plastics and other wastes. These goals of  protecting and improving our ocean stems from a larger, more comprehensive set of goals set forth by the UN that relates to creating sustainable development worldwide. Goal 14 is “life below water” and includes conservation and sustainably using the oceans. We found a few stories from the UN Conference particularly inspiring: So far, Australia committed 4.4 million dollars to train officials on enforcing environmental regulations and policies. Chile is creating 1.5 million square kilometers of protected marine areas. In addition, Chile has inspired fellow developing nations to begin the process of environmentally sustainable development on their own instead of relying on aid from developed nations.

Other International Coalitions and Alliances

A great example for organized international cooperation is the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification (also known as the O.A. Alliance), which was brought together by the governors of the western U.S. states such as California, Oregon, and Washington, along with the Canadian province of British Columbia. The O.A. Alliance provides a Call to Action plan highlighting five goals to help combat, reduce, and eradicate ocean acidification. The organization can be seen as an effective starting place in helping enact legal backing and provide a platform of sustained support in helping combat the global problem of ocean acidification.

The Call to Action’s five goals supported by their suggested action plan are:

  • To advance scientific understanding about ocean acidification,

  • Take meaningful actions to reduce the causes of ocean acidification

  • Protect environmental and coastal communities directly affected by the impacts of the   changing ocean

  • Expand public awareness and to understand ocean acidification

  • To build sustained support to help combat this global problem


The Alliance’s goals are similar to the systems and plans implemented by other local organizations in helping combat environmental problems such as climate change, global warming, coral bleaching, etc.


To learn more about these partnerships, ideas and ocean issues, we recommend:


International OA Alliance

US Climate Alliance

UN Oceans

The Micronesia Challenge

Local Communities on a Path to Zero Trash


This blog was written by students in the UC Davis First Year Seminar: Ocean Optimism