Ocean and Climate News

June 1, 2021

Boracay, Philippines © Sheila Paycana

Welcome to the June 2021 issue of Ocean and Climate News. This issue covers planning of ocean events in the lead-up to the Glasgow climate conference (UNFCCC COP26), this year’s celebration of World Oceans Day, and some of the latest international news on oceans. But first, some recent news on the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Besides widespread disappointment and the ripple of effects due to the cancellation of major ocean-related events scheduled for 2020, who would have thought that among the impacts of the pandemic was the restriction of public access to the beaches in an unprecedented way?  See a global status on beach closures due to the pandemic more than a year ago. Relaxation of strictures is viewed with wariness due to increases in new COVID-19 cases in some areas while there are other causes of remaining restrictions in other US states, e.g., weather-related or bacterial contamination.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been widely used, and discarded PPE has been seen in many different environments, including on tourist beaches. Face masks are encroaching on tourist beaches – see some recommendations on PPE proper use and disposal for the outdoor seasons.

Like everything that is snatched from us, we long for their return and realize how important oceans are for their aesthetic, ecological as well as existential value. For some, working remotely from tourist spots including island destinations has become a life saving option. See a photo gallery from an ocean sojourner here.

UN World Oceans Day

A Brief History of World Oceans Day

The United Nations first declared June 8th as Oceans Day in 1992 at the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro, an event organized to facilitate dialogue between NGOs and civil society on environmental issues at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Subsequently, worldwide observation of Oceans Day expanded to encompass a wide range of oceans issues from implementation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to international shipping and maritime security to biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and climate change concerns. In 2008, sixteen years after the initial declaration, a formal resolution by the UN General Assembly designated June 8 as “World Oceans Day.” The following year, the first official UN World Oceans Day was observed under the theme of Our Oceans, Our Responsibility, and contributed to an increase in awareness of ocean-related concerns that had emerged over the preceding decade and a half. In 2017, marking the 25th anniversary of the first Oceans Day in 1992, the UN Ocean Conference was held in support of the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 14 for the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. This year, World Oceans Day will be held in a fully virtual format for the second year in a row in an effort to reach a global audience while simultaneously taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

UN World Oceans Day 2021

This year’s official event, produced by the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UN DOALOS) and partners Oceanic Global, Blancpain, and La Mer, will follow the theme of The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods to highlight the life-sustaining capabilities of the world’s oceans both for humanity and for all nonhuman beings.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is organizing a high-level virtual celebration of World Oceans Day and entrepreneurship. The event, World Oceans Day 2021 Celebration: A Conversation with the UNDP 2020 Ocean, will feature the first cohort of ocean innovators from the Ocean Innovation Challenge (OIC) launched in January 2020 to identify, finance, mentor, and pilot innovative cross-cutting approaches to reducing marine pollution.

The International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification (OA Alliance) will host a two-day event with webinars on June 8 and 10 to raise awareness of and inspire global action to combat climate-ocean change and its impacts on food security, marine ecosystems, and efforts to build a sustainable ocean economy. The June 8 webinar, co-hosted by The Ocean Foundation, will focus on Sustainable Development Goal 14.3, “Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification.” The June 10 webinar, co-hosted by Peace Boat US, will focus on art, education, and outreach as methods for advancing global climate and ocean action.

The WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute will also host a World Oceans Day webinar addressing the topic of sustainable solutions to ocean and climate challenges. In addition to a line-up of renowned professors and ocean researchers, the webinar will conclude with an address by Professor David Freestone, Executive Secretary of the Sargasso Sea Commission, and a book launch for Frontiers in International Environmental Law: Oceans and Climate Challenges – Essays in Honour of David Freestone.

The Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) is organizing a roundtable dialogue Towards a Blue Economy Pathway for the East Asian Seas to be held on 8 June 2021 (World Oceans Day) aimed at supporting collaborative actions to harness blue economy initiatives in post-pandemic recovery plans. The event is the first of a series of collabs that will culminate in the East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress 2021 (1-2 December 2021, Cambodia).

More Recent News

SBSTA Chair Summary Report of Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue

The SBSTA Chair summary report from the Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue to consider how to strengthen adaptation and mitigation action (2-3 Dec 2020) has been published and available from the event webpage and directly here. Find the press release here; Twitter tweet here; Facebook post here.

Conservation International, along with IUCN, Rare, WWF, and other partners prepared a policy brief with key messages to inform the Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue and ocean-climate efforts and actions toward the upcoming UNFCCC COP26 and beyond. The outcomes of the Dialogue include, among others, all recommendations set forth in the brief. CI, IUCN, Rare, and WWF, like the rest of the ocean-climate community, are keen to develop recommendations for further ocean action within relevant agenda items, constituted bodies and work programs under the UNFCCC.

Ocean and Coastal Zones at COP26

In the run-up to UNFCCC COP26 (1-12 November 2021, Glasgow), the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action (MP-GCA) Ocean and Coastal Zones thematic group is planning a number of collaborative actions and activities. In recent months, led by pathway co-focal points IUCN and IOC-UNESCO, the group has built its Climate Action Pathway 2021 to mobilize all actors of civil society in greening the big blue through nature-based solutions. The Ocean and Coastal Zones group is working closely with the High-Level Climate Champions to boost ambition through concrete actions as part of the Race-to-Zero and Race-to-Resilience campaigns which rally to action non-state players, including companies, cities, regions, financial and educational institutions.

The co-focal points for the MP-GCA Ocean and Coastal Zones group (Ocean & Climate Platform and Conservation International) are organizing an inclusive workshop at the end of June to mobilize non-state actors and collectively define joint messages to voice the importance of the ocean-climate nexus at COP26. More details on the workshop agenda will be provided by Tamara Thomas (tthomas@conservation.org) and Loreley Picourt (lpicourt@ocean-climate.org) in due course.

A Virtual Ocean Pavilion at COP26 is being organized. For more information on the VOP, contact Miriam Balgos (mbalgos@globaloceanforum.com), or Carol Turley (ct@pml.ac.uk) and Thecla Keizer (tk@pml.ac.uk) of Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

A report prepared by a group of conservation organizations, Unpacking the UNFCCC Global Stocktake for Ocean-Climate Action, analyzed the crucial role of the ocean, coastal and marine NbS as part of the UNFCCC Global Stocktake, a worldwide assessment of progress achieved towards the Paris Agreement goals.


The Twenty-first meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (ICP-21, 14 to 18 June 2021) will focus its discussions on the topic Sea-level Rise and its Impacts. A briefing of delegations on logistics and pending issues for ICP-21 was held on May 28.

BBNJ Process

The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (IGC-4) will be held from 16 to 27 August 2021.

A Dialogue Workshop on The Role of Regional Cooperation Efforts for the High Seas of the Southeast Pacific of the STRONG High Seas Project took place on 26-27 May 2021.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), GRID-Arendal, and the Global Ocean Forum are collaborating in the preparation of a project on Building and Enhancing Sectoral and Cross-Sectoral Capacity to Support Sustainable Resource Use and Biodiversity Conservation in Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (The Cross-Sectoral Capacity Development Project, Common Oceans Program, Phase II). This project, to be implemented by UNEP, is part of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) intervention on ABNJ through the Common Oceans Program led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), and will focus its implementation in the Southeast Pacific and the Pacific Islands region in collaboration with the Permanent Commission for the South Pacific (CPPS) and Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat.

UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

The implementation of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is in full swing since its launch in January 2021. To understand the Decade in brief, see the The Decade Brochure, and here to keep track of the Decade activities. Today (Tuesday, 1 June 2021), the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkır, convened a High-Level Thematic Debate on the Ocean and Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is scheduled to launch from 4-5 June 2021, comprising of inspiring messages from world leaders, activists, celebrities, and musical performances as well as the programme of the World Environment Day 2021 (5 June 2021) host country (Pakistan).

Prepared by Miriam Balgos and Johanna Vonderhorst.

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