Ocean & Climate News

August 6, 2021

Welcome to the August 2021 issue of the Ocean & Climate News. This issue focuses on preparations in the lead-up to COP26 within the framework of the Roadmap to Oceans and Climate Action (ROCA) Initiative: 1) Virtual Ocean Pavilion at COP26; 2) Report on Assessing Progress on Ocean and Climate Action: 2020-2021; 3) COP26 side event and exhibit. But first, a Virtual Event 101…

Hawaiian shore © Omega Foryschowski

The Virtue of Virtual Events

Some definitions.

  • Virtual event: An online event that involves people interacting in a virtual environment, rather than a physical location.
  • Lobby: A 3D or 2D area where attendees are placed upon entering an event and where attendees can choose sessions and streams to “attend.”
  • Live streaming: Transmitting or receiving live video and audio coverage of an event over the Internet.
  • On demand: Prerecording of a live event, keynote, or session that attendees can watch any time on their schedule
  • Chat rooms: Can be used to send a message in real-time to an entire event audience or to presenters. (Many event platforms also offer features for attendees to set up group or 1:1 chats with one another outside of live sessions in the lobby or a designated lounge area)
  • Avatar: A two- or three-dimensional visual representation of an attendee used in online events.
  • Booth: A 3D or page-based space within a larger virtual event where attendees can engage directly with an exhibitor. A number of assets can be displayed here, including static text, logos, banners, video, and contact forms. Live discussions, demos, and presentations can also take place.

Why go virtual? A virtual format will ensure that the event will be:

  • Totally within the co-organizers’ control in terms of timing, allowing flexibility to respond to changes outside of organizers’ control
  • Adaptable and scalable
  • Long-lasting and accessible – being hosted online means assets will be available long-after the event has ended
  • Relatively less costly – eliminates the costs of a physical pavilion
  • More inclusive – will reach a much wider audience
  • Climate friendly – reduces carbon footprint

Exhibitor booths. In addition to panel sessions in virtual auditoriums, virtual exhibitor booths are also common in virtual events. Video and chat features as well as virtual meeting rooms for live interaction are the key features of exhibitor booths.

A variety of interactive features are available to registered participants including: 1) Live chat during session; 2) Q&A; 3) Polling; 4) Evaluations; 5) Forming links and networking; among others.

Examples of recent virtual ocean events include The Economist‘s World Ocean Summit; the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action Race to Zero Dialogues Oceans and Coastal Zone event which drew around 40,000 attendees; the SBSTA Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue to consider how to strengthen adaptation and mitigation action; and the Monaco Ocean Week.

Virtual Ocean Pavilion at COP26: Call for Collaborators and Sponsors

Organizations and policymakers from across our blue planet have converged at this period of existential threat and are looking for your support to create a Virtual Ocean Pavilion to increase knowledge, commitment and action for the ocean-climate nexus at the Climate Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow.

Why an Ocean Pavilion?

The ocean and climate are intrinsically linked, one cannot function without the other, and yet the ocean has lacked any real seat at the table under the UNFCCC climate negotiations. Without this essential piece of the puzzle, climate ambition will be hindered, and the ocean crisis will worsen. Furthermore, since the majority of the global ocean has no “owners” (and therefore no representative or voice of its own like nations) but covers 72% of the world’s surface and over 90% of the living space on the planet, then it should have a pavilion all of its own and thus make that point that it is central to life on Earth. In order to give it a voice it needs a prominent presence at the climate negotiations in its own right.

A dedicated Ocean Pavilion would raise the visibility of the ocean and showcase why the ocean matters in climate negotiations and to all life on our planet – not surprisingly the ocean transcends across all the COP26 Presidency themes in a unified way like no other topic, from finance to energy to nature, land, resilience, industry, transport, to cities and science and innovation. As the ocean concerns everyone, the Virtual Ocean Pavilion has the capability of engaging and reaching those that cannot attend COP26 in-person and presents a long-lasting resource for all – leaving no one behind.

Visitors can explore a virtual exhibition with the option to access background information as well as options on what actions they could take towards a more sustainable blue future. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore a COP26 Life Below Water “Treasure Trove” with, e.g., on-demand or live-streaming of ocean-related films, music, art, games, health and well-being.

Throughout its duration and across its component activities, the VOP will carry key messages reinforcing the link between the ocean and climate agenda.

Hawaiian monk seal © Omega Foryschowski


To help realize this Virtual Ocean Pavilion, the co-organizers are welcoming sponsors as well as additional partners. For interested parties, please contact us here.

Reports on Assessing Progress on Ocean and Climate Action

These reports comprise an annual series of assessments of ocean and climate science, policy, and action organized by the ROCA Initiative. Following the organization of the Strategic Action Roadmap to Oceans and Climate Action: 2016-2021, these progress reports address an inter-related “package” of issues, including, inter alia: recognizing the central role of oceans in climate; using ocean-based mitigation approaches (such as Blue Carbon, reducing air emissions from ships, renewable energy; carbon capture and storage); deploying a wide variety of adaptation measures, especially based on ecosystem approaches; fostering the low carbon Blue Economy; addressing the issues of human displacement; and providing adequate provision of financial flows and of capacity development. Preparation of the 2020-2021 volume is underway.

COP26 side event and exhibit

A side event application on “Ocean solutions: Coordination and collaboration for ocean-based mitigation and adaptation” was submitted with the following co-applicants: GOF/ICO, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), World Ocean Network, OPRI, and Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO).

An exhibit application on “Why the Ocean Matters in Climate Negotiations – Climate challenges, impact and options towards sustainable ocean development through interactive outreach: connecting science, industry, policy and youth by sharing knowledge via dialogues, international collaboration, art, observation and capacity building” was also submitted, led by PML.

Other COP26 News

  • The Official Registration System (ORS) for COP26 will be open for nomination of representatives from 2 August to 31 August 2021, 23:59 CEST. It will then reopen for confirmation of representatives from 6 September to 22 October 2021, 23:59 CEST.

Recent Publications

  • Dr. Carol Turley, Dr. Phil Williamson and Professor Ric Williams explain why we must pay attention to the climate extremes in the ocean in this article published in Environmental Journal. Tweet here.
  • From One Ocean Hub:
    • Transformative Governance for Ocean Biodiversity (here)
    • The Relevance of the Human Right to Science for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction: A New Legally Binding Instrument to Support Co-Production of Ocean Knowledge across Scales (here)
    • Climate Change Impacts on Atlantic Oceanic Island Tuna Fisheries (here)
    • Ecological-Fishery Forecasting of Squid Stock Dynamics under Climate Variability and Change: Review, Challenges, and Recommendations (here)

Timeout for Ocean Photos and Puzzles

  • New Ocean Photos: China and UK
  • Solutions to Ocean and Climate Crossword and Mystère Octo Puzzle

Prepared by Miriam Balgos, Global Ocean Forum.

Great Britain

Whitby Abbey from across the estuary (Yorkshire) © P. Whalley

A few shots of the England and Wales coast in the UK taken by Dr. Peter Whalley, Environmental Consultant working with the Global Ocean Forum and partners in the preparation of the UNEP/GEF project on Building and Enhancing Sectoral and Cross-Sectoral Capacity to Support Sustainable Resource Use and Biodiversity Conservation in Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.


Xiamen Bay, home to several million people as well as rare and endangered species, is located in the southeast of China. Xiamen City is well known for its natural beauty of coastlines and convenient port location, which contribute to its position of high rank of coastal tourism destination and shipping industry.

As one of the first demonstration sites of the integrated coastal management (ICM) program initiated by the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), Xiamen is a pioneer in the implementation of ICM and marine spatial planning in China.

Dr. Qinhua Fang, Professor in the College of the Environment & Ecology (CEE) and Deputy Director, Coastal and Ocean Management Institute (COMI), Xiamen University, PR China shares some of the wonderful views from Xiamen.

Xiamen City, China © Qinhua Fang / Weidi Yang

Ocean and Climate News

July 1, 2021

© Yugraj Yadava

Welcome to the July 2021 issue of the Ocean and Climate News. This issue covers the recent UN ICP meeting on sea level rise and its impacts; UN Ocean Decade and other news from IOC-UNESCO; ocean events and other news related to the upcoming Glasgow climate conference (UNFCCC COP26), and the sinking of a cargo ship off the coast of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The oil is still on board, but experts believe it is likely to spill…

The X-Press Pearl cargo ship caught fire in the Sri Lanka territorial waters off Negombo, a suburb of Colombo, the nation’s capital in late May. While the Sri Lankan Navy was trying to haul the ship to deeper water, it sunk and now the front section is on the ocean floor. The ship was carrying chemicals, nitric acid, 350 tons of fuel oil and 78 tons – allegedly over 3 billion micro-plastic pellets, all of which spilled into the water and washed up on to the beaches. It is believed that the ingestion of plastic pellets from the cargo ship is associated with the death of turtles, dolphins, sharks and whales which had washed ashore.

The oil is still on board, but experts believe it is likely to spill, with monsoon winds which may cause the wreck to move. Apart from the disastrous impacts to the marine environment, the socio-economic impacts are also serious because fisheries and tourism are major revenue-earning sectors in the country. Nearshore fishing is now banned, and fishers have lost their livelihood, and the tourist establishments that dot the west coast are also deeply affected.

Care should be taken in deciding whether the ship should be moved or not because of the possibility of oil spillage. If the oil does spill, the disaster will not only affect the Sri Lankan marine environment but also impact neighboring countries. A preventive measure could start with government review of procedures for allowing shipping vessels entry into the ports, including greater communication with neighboring countries such as India which had denied this ship from entering its ports due to reports that it was damaged. For more information about this story, see recent reports here and here. – Indumathie Hewawasam, Sustainable Oceans and Coasts and GOF

ICP-21 Focuses on Sea Level Rise and Its Impacts

The twenty-first meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (ICP) took place virtually from 14 to 18 June 2021. The participants of the meeting, which focused on sea-level rise and its impacts, heard from expert presenters about the latest scientific projections relating to sea-level rise, the impacts of sea-level rise, and the associated scientific, socio-economic and legal challenges, as well as adaptation measures.

According to the information provided, the global mean sea level has been rising since 1993 at a mean rate of 3.1 ± 0.3 mm per year, and the rise is accelerating by approximately 0.1 mm per year. There is a strong regional variability in the rates of sea level change, with rates in some regions up to 2–3 times higher than the global mean.

The largest contributions to rising future global mean sea level are expected from ocean warming and resulting thermal expansion, and from melt water flows from glaciers and Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets. Major uncertainties in estimating future sea level rise are due to the contribution of melt water from the Antarctic Ice Sheet and the extent of future carbon dioxide emissions.

This has major implications for the more than 600 million people living in coastal areas beneath the 10-m contour, and to some of the world’s biggest cities and ports located on the coast. Impacts of sea level rise will be felt by all coastal States but will be particularly severe in low lying coastal and island States. These impacts raise social and economic concerns, as well as concerns relating to international law. International cooperation will be required at all levels to respond to these challenges.

Negative impacts include a dramatic increase in flood risk from storm surges and tidal flooding. There is evidence of increased coastal flooding, coastal erosion and saline intrusion which is affecting agriculture and aquaculture and causing loss of habitats. Climate change, including sea-level rise, is a barrier to sustainable development and will push many atolls to the brink of habitability in the second half of the 21st century. It has the potential to affect millions of people around the globe through loss of livelihoods, infrastructure and homes, and through displacement and increased risk of statelessness linked to the theoretical physical disappearance of states. Entire communities on low-lying islands (including Kiribati, Maldives and Tuvalu) have nowhere to retreat within their islands.

At the ICP, Pacific small island developing States (SIDS) raised the importance of preserving maritime claims that have been established under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the face of sea-level rise. The loss of maritime entitlements due to sea level rise and coastal erosion was not contemplated when UNCLOS was negotiated, and thus there is a need to address the legal questions that would preserve maritime limits once they have been established. This was one of the priority issues highlighted by Pacific SIDS. More about the ICP is available here. – Marjo Vierros, Coastal Policy and Humanities Research and GOF

The Ocean Decade Endorsed Actions

The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (‘The Ocean Decade’) unveiled its first set of officially endorsed Actions. The Actions were subject to a competitive selection process with hundreds of applications, with the endorsement reflecting each Action’s focus on innovation, transdiciplinary approach and inclusivity in accelerating the generation and uptake of ocean knowledge for sustainable development. Covering a broad thematic and geographical reach, the Actions are led by diverse proponents from science, government, civil society, the private sector, philanthropy and international organizations.

A full list of the endorsed Ocean Decade Actions is available on the Ocean Decade website.  For more information: Contact: – Vinicius Lindoso, IOC-UNESCO

Integrated Ocean Carbon Research (IOC-R)

In the context of climate change, it is still unclear to scientists if the ocean will continue to help mitigate the effects of global warming, continuing to act as a major sink for carbon generated by human activities, or if its capacity to absorb carbon from the atmosphere will be altered as a consequence of the numerous human-induced ocean changes. Faced with the urgent need to find answers to this and other crucial scientific questions, five international research programmes on ocean and climate interaction have joined the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO to agree on a roadmap for future research, with the ultimate goal of providing decision-makers with the knowledge needed to implement effective climate change mitigation and adaptation policies in the next ten years.

The IOC Working Group on Integrated Ocean Carbon Research (IOC-R), established in 2018, aims at filling knowledge gaps in relation to ocean carbon by designing and promoting the implementation of the new generation of integrated ocean carbon research, and at informing policymaking on ocean and climate change. The Working Group, coordinated by IOC, fosters active collaboration and synergies amongst IOC, the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project (IOCCP), the Surface-Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS), the Integrated Marine Biosphere Research (IMBeR), the Global Carbon Project (GCP), the core project on Climate and Ocean Variability, Predictability and Change (CLIVAR) of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), and relevant national efforts on carbon research. IOC-R is open to any other relevant international efforts on ocean carbon research with a demonstrated scientific record. Additional information: Publication; Press release; Contact: Salvatore Arico, Head of Ocean Science Section, IOC-UNESCO (

Blue Carbon at UNFCCC SBSTA RD13 (Research Dialogue 13, 1-2 June 2021)

Reporting comprehensive inventories of greenhouse gas sources and sinks is an important step for tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement. In 2013, the IPCC released technical guidance on including wetlands in national greenhouse gas inventories, including blue carbon ecosystems – mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes. Yet, given the technical challenges involved, to date only a handful of countries have started this endeavor. The Blue Carbon Initiative and the International Partnership for Blue Carbon provide platforms to benefit from the experience and expertise of the global community, supporting scientists and countries to increase ambition on the inclusion of coastal blue carbon ecosystems in climate policies. The two initiatives contributed to the thirteenth Research Dialogue of the UNFCCC SBSTA with a poster presentation on current work in support of the protection and restoration of coastal blue carbon ecosystems. Contact: Elisabetta Bonotto, Project Coordinator, International Partnership for Blue Carbon, IOC-UNESCO (, cc:

News on the Climate Conference (COP26)

  • The MP-GCA Co-focal points for Ocean and Coastal Zones convened an online Workshop on building collective key messages for COP26, 28 June 2021. For the meeting report and other information, contact: Loreley Picourt ( and Tamara Thomas (
  • Informal consultations by the COP25 Presidency and the COP26 incoming Presidency: Informal meeting on oceans and climate, 29 June 2021. Contact: Joanna Post ( See the Because the Ocean report of the meeting here.

Why the Ocean Matters in Climate Negotiations

A new report highlights why the ocean matters in climate negotiations and suggests positive actions nations can take as the countdown to COP26 is underway. Leading UK experts shine a spotlight on the critical role the ocean plays in greatly slowing the rate of climate change but also the subsequent impacts of this and why support from nations for better inclusion of the ocean at the United Nations climate negotiations, such as COP26 in Glasgow this November, is so important. The briefing, led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory, summarizes the latest research and knowledge on the importance of the ocean, as well as offers a range of opportunities to nations in order to ensure that the ocean can be developed sustainably for the benefits it provides to people around the world. Developed by a team of experts from leading UK marine and environmental science universities and centres and published in association with the COP26 Universities Network, the briefing also makes suggestions on how the ocean can be better incorporated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. – Carol Turley, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

News from the Ocean & Climate Platform

Report: Ocean of Solutions to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss

The Ocean of Solutions report to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss aims to share accessible, reliable, scalable and replicable ocean-based solutions to address the climate and biodiversity crises. More than 50 organizations each put forth one of their flagship initiatives to encourage transformative change at all levels. It provides a pivot from ‘problem’ to ‘solution’, responding to policy requests and societal needs. The report showcases concrete solutions for both mitigation and/or adaptation action across four themes: 1) Protecting and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems; 2) Promoting research, developing scientific approaches and innovation; 3) Enhancing the transition towards low-carbon societies, territories and economies; 4) Education, awareness-raising and advocacy. Click here to read the report.

Brief: Coastal and marine ecosystems as Nature-based Solutions in new or updated NDCs

This first revision cycle of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement provides an opportunity for Parties to make greater use of coastal and marine Nature-based Solutions (NbS) in their national strategies and actions. In the run-up to UNFCCC COP26, the Ocean & Climate Platform, together with IUCN, Conservation International, WWF and other key partners, released a Policy Brief, which looks at Parties’ submissions to assess how and to what extent they integrated coastal and marine NbS as part of their climate mitigation and adaptation measures in their new or updated NDCs. Click here for more information.

Policy brief: Swimming the talk: How to strengthen synergies between the Climate and Biodiversity Conventions

Building synergies among the climate and biodiversity regimes will be decisive towards effective and holistic governance. And the ocean has a crucial role to play in this reconciliation. The Ocean & Climate Platform released a Policy Brief exploring options to build synergies between the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) towards a more integrated ocean-climate-biodiversity governance. Diving into these Conventions, this brief identifies four possible entry points across science, policy, action and finance to start swimming the talk and boost cooperation to address the greatest challenges of our time. Click here for more information.

For further information on the three publications, please contact: Loreley Picourt (, Secretary General, Ocean & Climate Platform

Rise Up for the Ocean

As a prescription for ocean health, Rise Up for the Ocean is a growing blue call to action from civil society urging governments and businesses to take the necessary actions to safeguard our ocean. With signatories from NGOs, foundations, Indigenous peoples federations, fisherfolk organizations, sports, media, arts, academia and more, RISE UP is a common ocean agenda setting out what needs to be done in the next 10 years. To join RISE UP, and the network of diverse ocean actors, sign on here. Watch the RISE UP video here. – Samuel Collins, Oceano Azul Foundation

Save the date: COP26 side event on Climate-related conflict: arts-based mediation and recourse to complaint, 10November 2021 2.30-5pm GMT, Level 3 of the new Learning & Teaching Building, TL328, University of Strathclyde

Organized by the One Ocean Hub, the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance, and the Independent Redress Mechanism (IRM) of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a short animation film titled Indlela yokuphila (“The soul’s journey”) made by artists, traditional healers, marine sociologists, and deep-sea marine ecologists from South Africa will be screened at the event. It will be followed by a discussion of the One Ocean Hub’s findings on how to use art-based mediation in climate-related conflict and the role of small-scale fishers as environmental human rights defenders. The IRM will present different avenues through which the IRM provides recourse to complaints arising from the adverse impacts of GCF projects and programmes. More details of this live/online event will be published on the One Ocean Hub website closer to the date. – Senia Febrica, One Ocean Hub

Call for Applications

The University of Brest is looking to hire a contractual researcher who will work in the SARGADOM, a collaborative project among the University of Brest, MarViva, the Sargasso Sea Commission, and the French Biodiversity Agency (OFB), which is supported by the Facility for Global Environment (FFEM). The project aims to develop and test methodologies for assessing needs and means for conservation strategies in the high seas with the Thermal Dome (East Central Pacific) and the Sargasso Sea as research fields.

Timeout for Ocean Photos and Puzzles

Prepared by Miriam Balgos and Alexis Maxwell.


The international ocean community is called upon to act on worsening ocean issues on an urgent basis. Among other pressing matters, we’ve been rushing to address the disastrous race-to-fish phenomenon and now we run with the Race-to-Zero and Race-to-Resilience efforts in the face of climate change. Sometimes, though, there is a need to lighten up to give our tired brains time to rest and recreate. Here are two puzzles to get your mind off threatening events momentarily.



From frothy beaches to snow-capped mountains, Chile’s coastal vistas do not fail to charm. The country’s marine environment and its rich resources are the object of cruise ship farers’ quest for pleasure and of avid conservation enthusiasts’ interventions, among other interests. Dr. Gonzalo Cid, International Activities Coordinator of the National Marine Protected Areas Center and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NOAA, shares his beloved Chilean coastline with these snapshots.


The Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal surround the Indian Subcontinent. Collectively known as the northern Indian Ocean, these seas are the provider of livelihoods, employment, and valuable seafood for a large coastal population in India. They are valuable for transportation and also tourism. They regulate the climate and the wonderful monsoon rains that fall on the Subcontinent every year. Their aesthetic values are unparalleled. Each mile of the coastline offers the most magnificent scene that remains etched in memory for life. Dr. Yugraj Yadava, Director of the Bay of Bengal Programme Inter-Governmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO), has captured these beautiful moments for the world to see.


The Protected Areas of the Azores includes marine protected areas that are part of the natural capital of the Azores archipelago. See here for the Blue Azores Program, an initiative within the framework of a memorandum of understanding among the Regional Government of the Azores, the Oceano Azul Foundation and the Waitt Institute, which focuses on the conservation and sustainable use of resources in the Azores.

Taking timeout from the Oceano Azul Foundation, Sam Collins spent some essential days to regroup in the Azores.

Sri Lanka

The beaches of Sri Lanka are popular for their beauty and scenery. The country has been in the news recently because of the possibility that a fire-ravaged cargo ship (MV X-Press Pearl) slowly sinking off its coast about 9.5 nautical miles northwest of Colombo is leaking oil. It was reported that the fire, which erupted on May 20, destroyed most of the ship’s cargo, which included 25 tons of nitric acid and other chemicals. There are concerns that debris from the fire has already polluted nearby beaches and that a spill of residual chemicals and oil from the ship could devastate marine life. See here and here for more information about this story.

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