News

September 20, 2018

Conference Considers Ways to Move from Science to Action during Ocean Science Decade

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub
Author: Catherine Benson Wahlén

12 September 2018: The High Level Scientific Conference, ‘From COP21 towards the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030),’ synthesized recent scientific progress on ocean and climate interplays, and evaluated the latest ocean-climate trends within the context of increased ocean action. Participants also reflected on ways to move from science to action during the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The conference took place from 10-11 September 2018, in Paris, France, at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The conference gathered inputs from multiple stakeholders, and invited the global ocean community to deliver “the ocean we need for the future we want.”

The session on ‘What does the Science Tell us Today about the Ocean?’ discussed how climate change has impacted the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life and how these changes will affect the livelihoods of people that rely on these resources. Panelists reflected on the challenges of making biological observations in the ocean, challenges for marine ecosystem modeling and the effects of land use change on ocean health.

"The UNFCCC, SDG 14 and the BBNJ “are 80% about the ocean.”

The session on ‘An Intergovernmental Organization Perspective on Ocean, Climate and Biodiversity Knowledge’ focused on how the ocean is being integrated into the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and how ocean science is being integrated into UN frameworks, notably with regard to marine ecosystems and biodiversity. IPCC Co-Chair, Hans-Otto Pörtner, highlighted reports that will cover the ocean in the IPCC Sixth Assessment cycle, such as the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) scheduled for approval in 2019. He recalled that the two most vulnerable marine ecosystems identified in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) are warm water coral reef systems and Arctic sea ice systems, outlining how disturbance of ecosystem functions can lead to loss of biodiversity and food chain disruption. IPBES President, Robert Watson, stressed that climate change and biodiversity are not isolated issues, and noted the need to understand the interplay between land, ocean and atmosphere. Panelists also described challenges to communicate the urgency of ocean conservation to decision makers in the context of multilateral negotiations, especially related to the deep sea. During discussions, panelists recommended further coordination between the IPCC and IPBES.

The session on ‘From Science to Action: How can the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development Make a Difference?’ focused on the opportunities for the Decade to scale up science-based solutions to address the impact of climate-related changes on ocean, ecosystems and society. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) Chair, Peter Haugan, highlighted how the IOC Ocean Global Science Report will provide a benchmark for SDG 14 (life below water) with regard to science capacity. Panelists called for ocean literacy investments and further engagement with the marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) process, agreeing that the Decade can help with the implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the UNFCCC.

The session on ‘From Science to Action: Which Policies?’ discussed: methods and tools for international frameworks, such as UNFCCC’s Action Agenda, the SDGs, and the Ocean Pathway Partnership, to shape national, regional, and international policies on ocean, climate, and biodiversity; and the actions initiated by States and international alliances, such as Because the Ocean, to implement their commitments and elaborate ocean-related NDCs. One panelist underscored the Decade as essential to promote synergies, illustrating how the ocean is at the core of many policy processes. As an illustration, he noted that the UNFCCC, SDG 14 and the BBNJ “are 80% about the ocean.”

Special sessions convened on: sciences cooperation, policies interfaces and the SDGs in the South Atlantic ocean; gender equality in ocean-related sciences and opportunities to advance women’s issues and priorities in the context of the Decade; and contributions of academic research to the Decade. [IISD RS Summary of the Conference]