The ocean’s vital role at the heart of UNESCO’s participation in COP21

With only a few days left before Heads of State and Government meet at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21), to be taking place from 30 November to 11 December 2015, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) is striving to highlight and integrate the vital role of the ocean as a key element of successful negotiations.

Despite being one of the two main suppliers of the oxygen we breathe, alongside forests, and a major regulator of the global climate system, the ocean has been relatively absent from talks on climate change. IOC aims to reverse this trend by providing expertise at no less than a dozen joined exhibitions and events for the duration of COP21.

IOC’s presence, meant to mobilize and share ocean solutions as part of the global agenda of actions to be discussed, will be threefold:

  • Conference Centre (Blue Zone): events geared towards decision-makers and national delegations – reserved for persons accredited by the UNFCCC
  • Climate Generations Areas (Red Zone): events geared towards civil society stakeholders such as NGOs, international organizations and scientific institutions – open to all
  • Parallel ocean-related events in Paris (UNESCO Headquarters and elsewhere): film screening, press conference, seminar, etc. – open to all

As the only organization within the United Nations system to be fully dedicated to ocean science in all ocean basins of the world, IOC’s contribution will notably consist in bringing to the fore the importance of ocean science and observation in the study of ocean-related impacts and issues. Be it through data management, early warning systems or assistance for the implementation of adaptation and mitigation strategies, IOC coordinates international scientific cooperation to ensure that the best scientific knowledge leads to appropriate understanding of climate change.

Three flagship events organized in the Climate Generations Areas will particularly mark IOC’s participation:

  • The Ocean and Climate Forum (3 December 2015) will present the objectives and the common agenda of the ocean-related events at COP 21. Different stakeholder groups – scientists, youth, economic actors, and decision-makers – will host an interactive debate to showcase the ocean as both an element of and a potential solution to climate change
  • The Oceans Day at COP21 (4 December 2015) will build on the recommendations and solutions put forward by the Ocean and Climate Forum to draw high-level political attention to the need to settle on an ambitious agreement at COP21, to showcase successful efforts in policies on ocean and climate, and to consider specific steps to take the ocean and climate agenda forward
  • The Ocean and Climate Moment (10 December 2015) will act as a follow-up to all ocean-themed scientific events at COP21 and will bring together representatives of Member States and UN Agencies, as well as international scientific experts and civil society actors, to recap and highlight the major scientific recommendations for policy action

All IOC events at COP21 will represent the culmination of several months of preparation that started with the celebration of World Oceans Day on 8 June at UNESCO’s Headquarters, alongside the Ocean and Climate Platform. 1,200 representatives of the youth, scientific community, civil society, as well as decision-makers and Heads of State, exhanged during a day of workshops that concluded with the launch of the Ocean’s Call for Climate, aiming to rally all stakeholders around the need to integrate the ocean into the future climate regime.

“The ocean is a source of sustainable solutions to climate change. Our goal is to highlight these solutions and mobilize action around them,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on World Oceans Day. The health of the ocean is not optional, it is the only way forward. Our future depends on it.

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