Summary report, 4 December 2015

Oceans Day at COP 21

Oceans Day at COP 21 was held at the Rio Conventions Pavilion on 4 December 2015, during the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 21) in Paris, France. Hosted by the Global Ocean Forum, and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), together with 44 other partner organizations (including the Governments of Grenada, Indonesia, Portugal, Seychelles, South Africa, and Sweden), Oceans Day at COP 21 brought together over 400 participants to advance the climate and ocean agenda.

Oceans Day featured special addresses from Prince Albert II of Monaco, Mary Robinson, President, Mary Robinson Foundation, and Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, France.

Six panel sessions also convened on: challenges and opportunities in the context of climate and oceans; addressing the effects of climate change on oceans, and on coastal and small island developing states (SIDS) populations; mitigation and the oceans; adaptation, and financing for adaptation; capacity development, scientific monitoring, and public education; and bringing it all together: a five-year agenda for action.

Two videos were screened, titled ‘The nature of people,’ and ‘Moana Rua: the rising of the seas.’ Oceans Day at COP 21 was closed with a reception.


Climate change is considered to be one of the most serious threats to sustainable development, with adverse impacts expected on the environment, human health, food security, economic activity, natural resources, and physical infrastructure. Climate change is also having a profound impact on the world’s oceans. Ocean warming directly impacts humans and ocean life – from sea level rise and increased storm intensity to habitat shifts and receding coastlines. This in turn disrupts ocean and coastal foodwebs, making it harder for fish, seabirds, and humans to find food necessary for survival. These changes drastically impact vulnerable coastal and island areas, sometimes resulting in loss of life, damage to infrastructure, the economy, tourism and fisheries, and possible displacement of populations.

In addition, the oceans absorbed approximately 30-50% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by humans over the last 200 years, resulting in ocean acidification with substantial impacts on ocean chemistry and marine life.

THE THIRD GLOBAL CONFERENCE: The Third Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, which had as its theme ‘Moving the Global Oceans Agenda Forward,’ was held in Paris, France, from 24-27 January 2006. The meeting sought to accelerate progress in achieving international ocean policy targets, especially those related to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and the Millennium Development Goals. Participants also examined the wide-ranging effects of climate change on oceans and coastal environments.

THE FOURTH GLOBAL CONFERENCE: The Fourth Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, ‘Advancing Ecosystem Management and Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management by 2010 in the Context of Climate Change,’ took place in Hanoi, Viet Nam, from 7-11 April 2008. One of the major themes of the Conference was climate, oceans, and security.

THE WORLD OCEAN CONFERENCE: The World Ocean Conference in Manado, Indonesia, took place from 11-15 May 2009. The primary outcome of the meeting was the Manado Oceans Declaration, which was signed by 76 governments and stressed the importance of having oceans on the climate change agenda at the Fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 15) in Copenhagen, Denmark, and beyond.

COPENHAGEN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE AND OCEANS DAY: The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, took place from 7-19 December 2009. On the sideline of COP 15, the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, the Government of Indonesia, and the European Environment Agency organized the Oceans Day at Copenhagen on 14 December 2009, to stress the central role of oceans in the Earth’s life-support system and to address threats faced by coastal communities, especially in developing nations and SIDS. Oceans Day highlighted the direct link between climate change, ocean health and human wellbeing. The Day brought together 320 participants representing governments, UN agencies, non- governmental organizations, scientists, and industry from 40 countries to focus on the role of the oceans in climate change and the fact that close to 50% of the world’s population living in coastal areas will suffer disproportionately from ocean warming, sea level rise, extreme weather events, and ocean acidification.

THE FIFTH GLOBAL CONFERENCE: The Fifth Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, was organized around three thematic sessions: ensuring survival, as it relates to oceans, climate and security and major issues in mitigation, adaptation, and financing in the post-Copenhagen climate regime; preserving life; and improving governance. It took place at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters in Paris, France, from 3-7 May 2010. It brought together over 850 participants from 80 countries (63% of which were developing countries and SIDS), including leaders from governments, UN and other international agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), industry, oceans donors, organized science groups, and networks of museums and aquaria.

CANCUN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE AND OCEANS DAY: The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, took place from 29 November -11 December 2010. Ocean Day convened on the sideline of COP 16. Oceans Day participants discussed: implementation and financing strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change impacts on coastal communities and SIDS; climate change and ocean acidification; and linking the science and economics of blue carbon.

DURBAN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE AND OCEANS DAY: The UN Climate Change Conference in Durban (COP 17), South Africa, took place from 28 November - 9 December 2011. Ocean Day convened on the sideline of the meeting, and considered the need to build a comprehensive program on ocean and climate. Participants and panellists also discussed, inter alia: tying COP 17 Outcomes to the Rio+20 Process; and progress on major issues including ocean acidification, and blue carbon.

GLOBAL OCEAN ACTION SUMMIT FOR FOOD SECURITY AND BLUE GROWTH: This meeting took place from 22-25 April 2014, in The Hague, the Netherlands, and was organized by the government of the Netherlands, in close collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank and the governments of Grenada, Indonesia, Mauritius, Norway and the US. Delegates considered the relationships between ocean health, global food security, livelihoods and economic growth, in the face of challenges such as climate change, pollution, overfishing and habitat loss. In six working groups, delegates discussed: balancing growth and conservation; private sector and social equity; areas beyond national jurisdiction and exclusive economic zones; models for governance; financing mechanisms; and action-oriented partnerships.

OUR OCEAN CONFERENCE: This meeting convened from June 16-17, 2014, in Washington DC, the US, and was organized by the US Department of State. The conference aimed to develop strategies for protecting oceans through three pillars focused on: sustainable fisheries; marine pollution from land-based and ocean-based sources; and ocean acidification, as addressed in the ‘Our Ocean Action Plan.’ The conference resulted in more than US$800 million in government and private sector commitments to conserve the ocean and its resources.

SECOND OUR OCEAN CONFERENCE: This meeting convened from 5-6 October 2015 in Valparaíso, Chile. The Government of Chile organized the meeting in close cooperation with the US State Department and other partners. The Conference aimed to promote voluntary governmental and institutional commitments to care for the ocean. The Conference generated US$2.1 billion in commitments on oceans. Commitments focused on, inter alia: tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; creating and expanding MPAs; addressing marine debris and marine pollution; and raising awareness on oceans and building capacity to address ocean challenges.



Julian Barbière, IOC-UNESCO, opened the Oceans Day at COP 21, calling for stronger commitment to the oceans as he called the first panel into order.

SETTING THE STAGE: THE CLIMATE AND OCEANS CONTEXT – CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES: This session was co-chaired by Ronald Jumeau, Ambassador, Climate Change and Small Island Developing State Issues, Seychelles, and Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Co-Chair Jumeau set the broader context for Oceans Day, with particular reference to important developments on oceans taking place in 2015, especially the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal on Oceans (SDG 14) as part of the Agenda 2030 sustainable development package. He introduced the ‘debt for adaptation swap’ concept and noted the Seychelles Marine Spatial Planning Initiative, covering its entire exclusive economic zone.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of Environment, Peru, and President, UNFCCC COP 20, described moving from the 1992 Earth Summit to the SDGs and UNFCCC COP 21, underscoring the continued relevance of oceans. Tommy Remengesau, President, Palau, introduced the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, which includes a ‘no-take’ zone of 500,000 square kilometers, providing a critical carbon sink. Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, highlighted: keeping warming below two degrees; healthy seas; ‘blue growth’; and global ocean governance.

Catherine Novelli, Department of State, US, on addressing ocean threats, called for: a durable climate change agreement; low-carbon economies; ocean resilience; and worldwide monitoring. Hans Hoogeveen, Vice-Minister of Agriculture, the Netherlands, emphasized the blue economy, calling for increased investment, and focusing on oceans and food security. Achmad Poernomo, Senior Advisor on Public Policy for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesia, underscored the need for improved capacity and the sustainable management of oceans.

Biliana Cicin-Sain, President, Global Ocean Forum, and University of Delaware, cautioned that oceans will be unable to perform their vital functions if climate change persists. Cicin-Sain called attention to draft policy recommendations emanating from the work of the International Working Group on Oceans and Climate, coordinated by the Global Ocean Forum, on a Policy Brief on the major oceans and climate issues. The draft recommendations were presented at the Oceans Day at COP 21 in various “stage setting papers” on the panels on central role of the oceans, mitigation, adaptation, financing and capacity development, to solicit input and to begin to create “alliances of the willing” to develop and implement a strategic action plan on oceans and climate for the next five years, both within and outside of the UNFCCC. The ensuing discussion, inter alia, addressed how to ensure oceans remain included within the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) draft agreement.

ADDRESSING THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON OCEANS AND ON COASTAL AND SIDS POPULATIONS: THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE, SCENARIOS, AND CHOICES FOR DECISION MAKERS: This session was co-chaired by Yuriko Koike, Member, House of Representatives, Japan, and Angus Friday, Ambassador of Grenada to the US. Co-Chair Koike emphasized the role oceans can play in being a reliable energy source for SIDS.

Carol Turley, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK, presenting on the science of oceans, said that even under a low-temperature-increase scenario, oceans are still at risk. David King, Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change, UK, said more work is required to reduce emissions while preparing for extreme climate impacts.

Michel Jarraud, Secretary General, World Meteorological Organization, underscored further strengthening of observation systems to provide better information for climate change action and decision makers. Underscoring the linkages between climate, fisheries and food security, Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director General, FAO, noted FAO’s ‘Blue Growth Initiative’ and called for better aquatic resource management.

Stressing how climate change impacts marine biodiversity, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary, CBD Secretariat, pointed to the CBD’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets, noting several address ocean ecosystems. Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair, Working Group II, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and University of Bremen, described oceans within IPCC reporting, mentioning a report dedicated to oceans as one of 25 proposals under consideration.

Co-Chair Friday, on behalf of Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister, Grenada, spoke on the blue economy and innovative options for financing in SIDS, calling for action before convening again next year for Oceans Day.

MITIGATION AND THE OCEANS:Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director-General, Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa, and Heremoana Mamaatuaiahutapu, Minister of Environment and Culture, French Polynesia, co-chaired the session. Prefacing the panel session, Margaret Leinen, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, called on participants to urge their respective representatives that “we should not be removing oceans from the ADP and the Paris agreement.”

Speaking on behalf of Polynesia Against Climate Threats (P.A.C.T.), Co-Chair Mamaatuaiahutapu underscored actions and commitments to address climate change in Polynesia. Dorothée Herr, IUCN, outlined how oceans can address mitigation, citing examples, including: coastal carbon wetlands; ocean carbon; reducing emissions from ships; renewable energy from oceans; and ocean-based carbon sequestration. Brian Murray, Duke University, discussed the costs associated with sea-level rise, storm surges, and losses of ecosystem services, and called for dedicated ocean financing for adaptation and mitigation efforts in coastal and island areas.

Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment, Australia, suggested blue carbon be included within the Paris agreement, linked to a set of international initiatives. Inger Andersen, Director General, IUCN, expressed support for a global blue carbon partnership, stating the need to work at local, national, and global levels.

Edmund Hughes, International Maritime Organization, spoke on emissions from international shipping, and the London Convention and Protocol on marine pollution and dumping of waste. Rawleston Moore, GEF, described climate change and energy challenges in small island states, giving examples of GEF-supported projects addressing these challenges. Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral, Portugal, introduced his country’s ‘Ministry of the Sea’ and the World Ocean Assessment, coordinated by Portugal and Argentina.

ADAPTATION AND FINANCING FOR ADAPTATION:The session was co-chaired by Meg Taylor, Secretary-General, Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, and Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and Paula Caballero, Senior Director, Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice, World Bank. Opening the session, Co-Chairs Taylor and Caballero described adaptation as complex, but essential and intimately tied to development. They posed questions for the panel, including on how to attract adaptation investment to ensure implementation.

Raphaël Billé, the Pacific Community (SPC), described the evolution of adaptation in international discussions, calling for action through integrated coastal and ocean management institutions, and ecosystem-based approaches. Cautioning that there is a lack of coherence in adaptation policies, Luke Daunivalu, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fiji, stated that Fiji has prioritized water infrastructure. Referring to scientific studies, Maria Damanaki, Global Managing Director for Oceans, The Nature Conservancy, called for transforming scientific facts into action, and urged for redirecting a portion of investment from ‘gray’ to ‘green’ infrastructure.

Noting existing adaptation challenges in Africa, such as the depletion of fish stocks, Hashali Hamukuaya, Executive Secretary, Benguela Current Commission, called for investing in multi-sectoral approaches. Admitting some maritime professionals are “guilty of criminal behavior,” Francis Vallat, President, European Network of Maritime Clusters, stated environmental awareness and operations are largely improving, citing examples of eco-friendly ship-related operations from building to scrapping.

Ngedikes Olai Uludong, Ambassador to the EU, and Ambassador on Climate Change, Palau, framed Palau as on the frontlines of climate change, and said issues of loss and damage need to be addressed.

Angus Garrett, Seafish, UK, described adaptation measures taken within the UK seafood industry, underscoring wild capture of seafood as an important resource and seeing climate change as a strategic challenge.

CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT, SCIENTIFIC MONITORING, AND PUBLIC EDUCATION: This session was co-chaired by Lisa Svensson, Ambassador for Oceans, Seas and Fresh Water, Sweden, and Philippe Vallette, Director General, Nausicaá the French National Sea Center, and Co-President, World Ocean Network. Co-Chair Svensson stressed Sweden’s efforts to implement SDG14 (Life Below Water) on oceans, while highlighting the need to address blue economy principles. Co-Chair Vallette encouraged, among other issues, fostering stronger citizen engagement on climate change.

Hiroshi Terashima, President, Ocean Policy Research Institute, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Japan, suggested, inter alia, mainstreaming climate change adaptation into integrated coastal area management plans, and disaster preparedness.

Samuel Kame-Domguia, African Union (AU) Commission, provided an overview of the AU’s ‘2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy,’ saying that, among other issues, it aims to promote Africa’s blue economy.

Vladimir Ryabinin noted that the IOC places an emphasis on capacity building, and urged for implementing: a technology transfer programme for developing countries; and technical capacity development.

José Soares dos Santos, Fundação Franciso Manuel dos Santos, Portugal, said those with knowledge and resources have an obligation to act, announcing a new foundation dedicated to ocean issues.

John Tanzer, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International, described a report on the economic value of oceans, and said, “we can’t desert the most vulnerable.”

Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator for Rhode Island, US, stated ocean damage is non-debatable, but it is often overlooked. Quoting Pope Francis, “nature never forgives,” he emphasized “we need to get this right.”

Langston James “Kimo” Goree, Founder and Chief Executive, Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Vice-President, Reporting Services and UN Liaison, International Institute for Sustainable Development, underscored the importance of knowledge management, focusing on tracking issues as they emerge, developing concise, neutral and transferable messages, and building networks to share knowledge.


Prince Albert II of Monaco called for reducing the divide between “the world of the sea and ‘normal’ human activities,” highlighting that, “we are living in one of the most sea-faring times in history.” He underscored the roles oceans play in supporting livelihoods and the economy, urging drawing on marine protected areas, marine renewable energies and science. Calling for new strategies, he said further political efforts are needed to strengthen the focus on oceans in the climate negotiations.

Mary Robinson, President, Mary Robinson Foundation, underscored that of the 183 coastal countries, many already feel the impacts of climate change, and shared examples from several SIDS that are developing resettlement plans to support “migration with dignity.” She referred to the current migration crisis as a forewarning of the future impacts of climate change, stating that climate actions should be guided by human rights, so that future resettlement is well planned. Robinson underscored the need for capacity building for continued mitigation action.

Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, France, expressed France’s leadership in addressing climate change in oceans. She highlighted the important role that oceans play, in relation to biodiversity, quality of life, and human survival, framing the Oceans Day at COP 21 as a key event at UNFCCC COP 21. Royal closed by saying, “if we continue to work together we can reach a solution.”


BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER: A FIVE-YEAR AGENDA FOR ACTION:This session was co-chaired by Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, UNEP, and Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO. Noting expectations at COP 21 are high, Co-Chair Bokova urged for addressing climate change and oceans as a “single agenda.”

Co-Chair Thiaw called oceans “the lungs of the planet” for their capture and storage of circa 30% of human-produced carbon.

John Pundari, Minister for Environment and Conservation and Climate Change, Papua New Guinea, urged for advancing the nexus between climate change and oceans, and lauded SDG13 (Climate Action) and SDG14 (Life Below Water).

Speaking on how to adopt and deepen blue economy and multi-sectoral approaches, Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, GEF, said the task ahead is achieving SDG14 (Life Below Water).


Closing Oceans Day, representatives of the Ocean and Climate Platform, Romain Troublé, Secretary General, Tara Expeditions, and Catherine Chabaud, President, Innovation Bleues, presented Bokova and Biliana Cicin-Sain with ocean and climate flags, thanking them for their efforts in moving the oceans and climate agenda forward.


Side Event on The Importance of Addressing Oceans and Coasts in an Ambitious Agreement at the UNFCCC COP 21: This event it organized by the International Coastal and Ocean Organization (Global Ocean Forum). date: 8 December 2015 location: Paris, France

CITES SC66: The CITES Standing Committee will convene for its sixty-sixth meeting. dates: 11-15 January 2016 location: Geneva, Switzerland contact: CITES Secretariat phone: +41-22-917-81-39/40 fax: +41-22-797-34-17 email: www:

Second Meeting of the UNEP Open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives: The Open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives will prepare for the next meeting of the UN Environment Assembly of the UN Environment Programme. dates: 15-19 February 2016 location: Nairobi, Kenya contact: Jorge Laguna-Celis, Secretary of Governing Bodies email: www:

Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to Study Issues relating the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction (BBNJ): The Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity BBNJ will continue its work on the elements of a draft text of an international legally-binding instrument under UNCLOS. dates: 28 March-8 April 2016 venue: UN Headquarters location: New York, US contact: UN DOALOS phone: +1 212-963-3962 email: www:

Second Meeting of the UN Environment Assembly: The UNEA of the UNEP represents the highest level of governance of international environmental affairs in the UN system. dates: 23-27 May 2016 location: Nairobi, Kenya contact: Jorge Laguna-Celis, Secretary of Governing Bodies email: www:

FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) 32nd Session: The 32nd session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries is scheduled to take place at FAO headquarters. dates: June 2016 location: Rome, Italy contact: Hiromoto Watanabe phone: +39-06-570-55252 email: www:

CITES COP17: The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna will convene for its 17th session. dates: 24 September-5 October 2016 location: Johannesburg, South Africa contact: CITES Secretariat phone: +41-22-917-81-39/40 fax: +41-22-797-34-17 email: www:

Further information


National governments
Negotiating blocs
African Union
European Union
Small Island Developing States
Non-state coalitions