Six months ahead of the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) that will take place at the end of 2015, World Oceans Day, celebrated on 8 June each year, provided an opportunity to launch a Call to take the ocean into account in climate negotiations. This Call echoes the recommendations formulated by representatives of the scientific community and civil society through a day of discussions organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO and the Ocean and Climate Platform* at UNESCO Headquarters.
The Day was opened by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in the presence, notably, of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, the United Nations and UN-Oceans representative Miguel Serpa Soares, and the Director of the French National Museum of Natural History and representative of the Ocean and Climate Platform, Gilles Bœuf. The workshops, round tables, UNESCO Campus open to students and exhibitions that set the pace of the Day were designed to highlight the ocean’s essential role in climate processes. Yet international climate negotiations have not paid nearly enough attention to it.
“It is imperative that we improve our understanding of the link between ocean and climate, and that we raise awareness regarding what we already know” declared the Director-General of UNESCO, recalling the launch of the Ocean & Climate Platform at UNESCO a year ago “to share scientific knowledge with negotiators and the general public”.
“There can be no sustainable development without a living ocean. Any attempt to reach a climate agreement must take the ocean’s role into account in order to succeed” further highlighted Irina Bokova.
“The COP [United Nations Climate Change Conference] in Paris must help to accelerate public awareness because the ocean is part of the solution. It is a critical ally in the fight against climate change” stressed Laurent Fabius, who pledged that a day would be dedicated to the ocean during COP21.
“We cannot say that the ocean is humanity’s entire future, but is it a future for humanity” explained Gilles Bœuf, in a plea to take the ocean into further consideration in the framework of climate negotiations.
The Day concluded with a Call aiming to mobilize the Member States and raise the awareness climate negotiations stakeholders. The signatories (members of the Ocean and Climate Platform comprising NGOs, private sector representatives, scientific institutions and IOC-UNESCO) stressed the importance of protected and functioning marine ecosystems in view of the services they provide, such as their natural capacity to capture CO2. Additionally, their role as “lung” of the planet is as important as forests’.
The Call also pleas for an integration of sustainable marine biodiversity management projects into climate finance mechanisms. The need to support scientific research, as a means to expand our understanding of climate processes and thus improve political action is another component. It will be presented to Member States during COP21 in December 2015, together with a set of recommendations to include the ocean in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
It was read by Sandra Bessudo, the Columbian High Presidential Counselor for Environmental Management, Biodiversity, Water & Climate Change, to the attendees of the closing ceremony, notably HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Tommy Remengesau, President of Palau, Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados, and Danny Faure, Vice-president of the Seychelles.
Everyone is invited to give the ocean a voice by signing the Call on change.org/oceanforclimate (#OceanForClimate), thus joining forces with the scientists, skippers, and associations that will champion this vital call for the planet’s future during climate negotiations.
*About the Ocean and Climate Platform
The Ocean and Climate Platform stems from an alliance of non-governmental organizations and research institutes, with the support of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. It was established in on 10 June 2014 on the occasion of World Oceans day. Today the Platform includes scientific organizations, universities, research institutions, non-profit associations, foundations, science centers, public institutions and business organizations, all acting to bring the ocean to the forefront in climate discussions.
- Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service, +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64, a.bardon(at)unesco.org