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COP27 outcomes take the global ocean community forward on collective action to tackle climate change

IOC-UNESCO, 02.12.2022

COP27 concluded in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, with increased awareness of the need to strengthen ocean science and seek ocean-based solutions to reverse climate change.

The Ocean in the climate negotiations

From 6 to 18 November, Heads of State, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists, mayors, civil society representatives and CEOs met in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm El-Sheikh for the largest annual gathering on climate action. UNESCO was present at the conference hosting various side events and discussion panels, and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) participated in a large coalition of partners committed to making the ocean more central to climate negotiations and informing delegates about the potential of the ocean to support climate solutions.

Ocean Decade

The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (the ‘Ocean Decade’) organised a series of events at COP27 highlighting the need for diverse actors to collectively work across the science – policy – society interface to ensure that ocean science leads to tangible and sustainable climate action.

The events addressed specific themes, such as climate action in Africa, resilience through nature-based solutions, financing ocean science for climate action, and how to communicate ocean science so that it is used for climate policy and action.

“Science is the key to the climate change battle that we have on our hands. The Ocean Decade will be a game changer,” said Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean.

Key announcements made at COP27:

  • A new partnership has been signed with the Research Council of Norway on joint calls for new Ocean Decade Actions, to increase the impact and solutions for resilience and the ocean economy.
  • IOC-UNESCO Executive Secretary, Vladimir Ryabinin, announced the new Mário Ruivo Memorial Lecture. IOC-UNESCO, the Government of Portugal and EurOcean Foundation are inviting early career ocean professionals (ECOPs) to apply to the newly launched Mário Ruivo Memorial Lecture Series. Endorsed by the Ocean Decade, this initiative intends to stimulate and recognise ECOPs who are contributing in a substantive way to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda – Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 14, ‘Life below water’, and to the vision and mission of the Ocean Decade.
  • In partnership with the  Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), the new African Ocean Decade Taskforce is now driving the implementation of the Africa Roadmap that was launched in May 2022.

Ocean stress (ocean acidification & deoxygenation)

COP27 was also the platform for several side events, organized and supported by IOC-UNESCO, calling on the integration of ocean acidification and deoxygenation in climate action.

Over the course of 10 days, various panels discussed the different aspects of ocean acidification: the predicted increase, the dramatic impacts on ocean and human health, global efforts to raise awareness and build scientific understanding and capacity around ocean acidification (GOA-ON and OARS), as well as mitigation and adaptation approaches.

One side event during week two  revolved around scientific understanding of deoxygenation and existing opportunities for improving public awareness, policy, and management pertaining to this issue.

Key announcements made at COP27:

  • IOC/UNESCO will continue its support of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing network, its Ocean Decade programme ‘Ocean Acidification Research for Sustainability’ and the ocean acidification community at large to advance the science for ocean acidification adaptation and mitigation.
  • IOC/UNESCO reaffirmed its support to the Africa region and presented some of the latest capacity development activities, providing instruments and technical expertise to countries in Western and Eastern parts of Africa.

Blue carbon

Nature and biodiversity confirmed to be critical in mitigating and adapting to climate change, and Nature-based Solutions (NbS) such as blue carbon were at the heart of several side events to the conference. IOC was the co-organiser of the first-ever Blue Carbon Implementation Lab at a climate change COP, as well as of other side events hosted jointly with the initiatives it supports – the Blue Carbon Initiative and the International Partnership for Blue Carbon (IPBC). See the full list of blue carbon key announcements

Ocean observing and data

The Global Ocean Observing System presented an ambitious proposal of a global goal for observations during the conference. A global goal would imply a commitment from all signing Parties to support the global climate observing system in a sustained way, by providing funding and capacity. And while this goal did not get included as such in the final decisions, very positive advancements were made in terms of recognizing the urgent need to fill in the gaps in ocean observations, and acknowledging the importance of an enhanced framework for coordination.

Sabrina Speich, co-chair of the Physics and Climate panel sponsored by the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), introduced how ocean observing is key for accompanying nations in climate action, mitigation and adaptation at the GCOS side event.

Parties and Organizations were also called out to take action on improving the global climate observing system by implementing the GCOS Implementation Plan, which recognizes the importance of sustained ocean observations. The GCOS Implementation Plan was welcomed, together with many actions related to the Global Ocean Observing System.

Ocean literacy

COP27 marked a turning point in which most stakeholders and partners now seem to recognize the notion of “ocean literacy” as pivotal to fight climate change.

There is a collective need to review the “traditional education” and update the content and tools that can serve as a basis for new approaches to encourage immediate action and engage not only children and the youth, but society at large.

Throughout ocean literacy discussions, two expressions have emerged: “Re-educate” and “emotional learning”, serving as a major indicator that IOC-UNESCO’s approach to Ocean Literacy is moving in the right direction, as reflected in the Ocean Decade Output 7, “an inspiring and engaging ocean”.

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About the IOC-UNESCO:

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) promotes international cooperation in marine sciences to improve management of the ocean, coasts and marine resources. The IOC enables its 150 Member States to work together by coordinating programmes in capacity development, ocean observations and services, ocean science and tsunami warning. The work of the IOC contributes to the mission of UNESCO to promote the advancement of science and its applications to develop knowledge and capacity, key to economic and social progress, the basis of peace and sustainable development.

About the Ocean Decade:

Proclaimed in 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) (‘the Ocean Decade’) seeks to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyse new opportunities for sustainable development of this massive marine ecosystem. The vision of the Ocean Decade is ‘the science we need for the ocean we want’. The Ocean Decade provides a convening framework for scientists and stakeholders from diverse sectors to develop the scientific knowledge and the partnerships needed to accelerate and harness advances in ocean science to achieve a better understanding of the ocean system, and deliver science-based solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The UN General Assembly mandated UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to coordinate the preparations and implementation of the Decade.