World Leaders in Ocean Science and Philanthropy Come Together to Create First-ever Ocean Pavilion at UN Climate Conference
Venue in “Blue Zone” an acknowledgment of rising profile of the ocean in international climate negotiations and possible solutions to climate crisis
Woods Hole, Mass. — A group of the world’s leading ocean science and philanthropic organizations, led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, have come together to highlight the global ocean at the upcoming 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
The Ocean Pavilion in the conference’s official meeting area will highlight the crucial importance of the ocean to Earth’s climate and to efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change in the safest, most effective ways science can offer. It will also be the first time the ocean has been the singular focus of a pavilion inside the central “Blue Zone” at any COP and the first time a pavilion has been organized principally by a group of research institutions.
“Earth is an ocean planet,” said WHOI President and Director Peter de Menocal. “The ocean gives us the oxygen we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. It also provides jobs for billions of people, including many of the world's most vulnerable. It’s only natural that the ocean should also be at the center of discussions about the sustainability of human activity on Earth, including how it can help stabilize the global climate system at a safe level."
“The ocean is the engine of Earth’s climate,” said Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Oceanography, and Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences at UC San Diego. “We know that it has absorbed 90% of the heat produced by human activity since the dawn of the industrial age and it holds 20 times more carbon than the atmosphere and terrestrial plants combined. Put simply, the ocean is climate, and the climate is the ocean.”
The Ocean Pavilion will serve as a central hub for conference delegates to exchange ideas about how to address climate change by leveraging the ocean. Throughout the conference, held from November 6 to 18, the pavilion will feature events, meetings, and in-depth discussions that elaborate on the daily conference themes and that explore issues surrounding COP27’s overarching goal of implementing the commitments made by nations in the wake of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Visitors to the pavilion will also be able learn more about the work of Ocean Pavilion partners and to speak with scientists engaged in the search for solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.
The annual COP meetings bring together world leaders and climate experts from nearly 200 countries, as well as leaders in industry, trade, transportation, finance, labor, and more to focus on the shared mission of meeting the commitments made under the Paris Agreement. Under the agreement, countries pledged to collectively cut their greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the planet from warming by no more than 1.5–2° C (2.7–3.6° F) relative to pre-industrial times. Progress toward those goals has lagged and, as a result, the planet has already warmed by about 1°C, lending even greater urgency to the search for safe, effective solutions to reduce the upward march of global temperatures.
In order to keep warming below the thresholds stated in the Paris Agreement, scientists are growing increasingly vocal about the need to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, at the same time, develop and deploy methods of removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than human activities produce. To succeed, this strategy, known as “net negative emissions,” will require large-scale, nature-based solutions. Because the ocean makes up more than two-thirds of Earth's surface, achieving that goal will almost certainly require leveraging the natural ocean processes that already influence the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A 2022 study by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine highlighted six promising methods, but concluded that, for any method to be successful, science must lead the way in determining the most appropriate set of solutions that help society meet its targets without adversely affecting the ocean.
At the same time, the ocean can also help address a much broader array of challenges faced by people around the world, including food security, energy production, water management, and economic growth. For that reason, the United Nations recently established the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and convened the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon to emphasize that the world community needs to focus efforts on better understanding the ocean in order to unlock solutions worldwide.
These events, coupled with the deepening climate crisis, prompted WHOI and Scripps to band together and invite a wide range of partners to the task of “bringing the blue to the Blue Zone” at COP27. The partners include a diverse and growing collection of global leaders in ocean science, engineering, policy, and philanthropy–perspectives that are crucial to gaining the insights needed to surmount the many challenges facing society today.
In addition to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Ocean Pavilion partners include American Geophysical Union (AGU), Avatar Alliance Foundation, Blue Marine Foundation, French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), French National Research Institute for Ocean Science and Technology (IFREMER), Minderoo Foundation, Monaco Scientific Center, National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries-Egypt (NIOF), National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Ocean Policy Research Institute (OPRI), OceanX, Pacific Islands Forum, Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO), Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), The Ocean Race, and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the coordinating agency of the UN Ocean Decade.
The Ocean Pavilion will also be open to other groups attending COP27 to propose events during the conference that will broaden the conversation about what the ocean can do for the planet and what humans can do to protect the ocean.
“Ocean science is emblematic of the way we will see our way out of the climate crisis,” said Leinen. “We succeed by looking for solutions together on this ocean planet we call home.” “The ocean is too big and too complicated for any one organization to go it alone,” said de Menocal. “We will only succeed by joining diverse perspectives to find solutions together.”
More information about the Ocean Pavilion, including ways to propose events and programming during COP27, can be found on the pavilion website. Anyone can also sign up to receive emails providing regular ocean-related updates from COP27 Ocean Pavilion.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930, its mission is to understand the ocean and its interactions with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering—one that has made it one of the most trusted and technically advanced leaders in fundamental and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations, and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation and operate the most extensive suite of ocean data-gathering platforms in the world. Top scientists, engineers, and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects worldwide—both above and below the waves—pushing the boundaries of knowledge to inform people and policies for a healthier planet. Learn more at whoi.edu.
- Scientists and policymakers are increasingly turning to the ocean in the search for meaningful responses to the climate crisis, marking an important shift.
- The ocean will occupy a more prominent position than it ever has at any previous UN Climate Conference.
- The first-ever ocean-focused pavilion inside the Blue Zone of a UN Climate Conference (COP) is being organized by global leaders in ocean science and philanthropy for COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, led by the two largest oceanographic institutions in the United States: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
- The Ocean Pavilion will provide a focal point for events and discussions aimed at making the ocean more central to climate negotiations and informing delegates about the potential of the ocean to support climate solutions.
- The ocean is a source of potential solutions to climate change on a scale greater than any terrestrial solution, and scientists recognize that natural systems in the ocean that moderate climate could help us create safe, long-term solutions to climate crisis.