16.11.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

An Ocean Pathway towards sustainable development

IOC Executive Secretary Vladimir Ryabinin at the launch of the Ocean Pathway Partnership at COP23 on 16 November 2017.

Paris, 16 November - The COP23 host country Fiji has launched today the Ocean Pathway Partnership toward formal recognition of the links between ocean and climate change in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process by 2020. The initiative caps a climate summit marked by multiples calls for more science-based action from an emerging ocean community.

Two years after the historic signature of the Paris Agreement, the first international climate agreement to recognize the essential role of the ocean as chief climate regulator, the ocean continues to make headway to the center stage of global climate politics. Mounting challenges such as increasing CO2 and decrease in oxygen levels nevertheless pose grave threats to ocean health and, in turn, human wellbeing.

The ocean community gathered at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, to review the progress of international efforts, and reflect on the role of science in identifying and implementing effective ocean-based solutions to climate change.

Among the key outputs from the summit, the Fiji-led Ocean Pathway Partnership launched today proposes to enhance funding opportunities to support ocean health and the maintenance of critical ocean ecosystems, and encourages the insertion of ocean-based action into countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement.

Speaking at The Ocean Pathway launch event, Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), welcomed Fiji’s efforts to develop a specific work program on ocean within the UNFCCC. “This would be the culmination of many years of efforts from the IOC and its partners to raise awareness among the nations engaged in climate negotiations of the fact that the ocean is part and parcel of the climate change questions,” he explained.

Ocean science for action

As the international community issues calls for putting ocean front and center of the climate agenda, the race begins to fill the remaining scientific gaps around the interconnections between a warming ocean and a changing climate. Effective action to address either part of this puzzle will require the best possible scientific knowledge available.

To highlight the urgency of action on ocean issues, UNESCO’s IOC joined forces with over a dozen scientific institutions, international and civil society organizations, and governments to organize the COP23 Oceans Action Day on 11 November.

The all-day event focused on action on the ground and showcased lessons learned, best practices and recommendations for replication and upscaling of successful experiences, with a focus on Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Following a high-level plenary opening session, seven parallel sessions were held under the leadership of partner organizations. IOC co-organized two of those sessions, namely the one on “Science and Oceans: IPCC Report and Other Developments”, together with the Ocean and Climate Platform and the “Blue Carbon and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs): Where and How” session together with IUCN and Conservation International.

In the day’s closing remarks, Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, stressed that “ocean action needs ocean science”. He expressed at the same time his support for IOC’s proposal for a United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), which will focus international efforts to advance oceanographic research and deliver breakthroughs in ocean knowledge and technology.

To cap the Oceans Action Day, the United Nations inter-agency mechanism for ocean affairs (UN-Oceans) hosted a side event to highlight the collective international and UN efforts to address climate related stressors on the ocean through improved scientific capacity, mitigation strategies and innovative adaptation approaches. Under UNESCO’s IOC coordination, eight UN bodies came together to address their joint cooperation through actions such as establishing and running global observations systems for ocean acidification, and assessing the state of coral reefs in World Heritage sites.

Strengthening alliances between ocean science and society

Whether in the context of the Ocean Pathway Partnership or the Decade of Ocean Science, it has become clear since COP21 in Paris that international organizations and national governments must rely upon civil society and private sector stakeholders to ensure effective and timely action on ocean and climate.

Many of these stakeholders were present and actively participated in COP23, notably to present the recently established Ocean and Climate Initiatives Alliance (OCIA), during a dedicated side event. This coalition of 70 non-governmental organizations, supported by the Ocean and Climate Platform and UNESCO’s IOC, was launched in February 2017 at UNESCO Headquarters with a mandate to federate ocean action to accelerate the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

The OCIA side event was the opportunity to present a global overview of the Alliance and its main achievements since its creation. Side event panelists presented the first OCIA Report of Progress on Ocean and Climate Action, emphasizing key findings and conclusions for the future role of OCIA. The roundtable discussion highlighted the results generated from the strong cooperation between scientific researchers and NGOs working on ocean and climate issues, and called for a common framework of action to implement the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.

Science and civil society must share their expertise, knowledge and capacity of action to be even stronger and more efficient to protect the ocean.

Further information:

Oceans Action Day at COP23

The Ocean Pathway

Report: Ocean and Climate Initiatives Alliance (OCIA)

For more information, please contact:

Julian Barbière (j.barbiere(at)unesco.org

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