Calling for ocean-climate action at COP27

November 3, 2022

On the heels of the second annual Ocean Carbon Workshop, a delegation from the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is set to attend the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), more commonly referred to as COP.

This year, the conference will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. OFI’s Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director, Anya Waite, is set to take part in-person from November 7-16.  

“Our message at COP27 is clear: the ocean buffers climate change,” says Dr. Waite. “It represents the largest carbon storage depot on earth, and its critical carbon absorbing function is changing in ways that may impact climate forecasts.”

Without accurate forecasts, it is impossible to set effective climate policies. The cost of incorrect policy could be devastating to our communities, the economy, and our planet.  

Deep blue carbon: a gap

While many countries already undertake ocean observation efforts, most efforts are focused on coastal ecosystems.  

"Critically, more than 95 per cent of carbon is stored in the high seas beyond national boundaries, which we now call deep blue carbon,” says Waite. “But nations only have a mandate to act on land and adjacent coasts.”

It is a gap, according to Waite, that can only be bridged by an integrated observing system that is co-designed by a consortium of nations.  

Intergovernmental agencies are elevating this issue at COP27, including the World Meteorological Organization and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which hosts the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) co-Chaired by Waite. The UNFCCC is bringing a consolidated message to Earth Information Day (November 9) on the need for coordinated global observation. GOOS is also set to highlight the notion of an ocean observation exemplar through their events, as part of their UN Ocean Decade program Ocean Observation Co-Design.

North Atlantic exemplar

To launch an integrated observing system, an initial framework is urgently needed - enabling nations to join forces on the measurement, management and reporting of deep blue carbon. Such a collaboration would enable better climate forecasts and inform global climate policy and strategy.  

The proposed North Atlantic Carbon Observatory could serve as an exemplar, suggests Waite.  

The North Atlantic acts as one of the world’s most intense ocean carbon sinks, particularly the sub-polar gyre off Newfoundland and Labrador (the Labrador Sea), and the subtropical gyre southeast of Nova Scotia. The region is also particularly vulnerable to climate change, being downstream from the Arctic and Greenland ice caps, and extremely sensitive to the strength and location of the Gulf Stream.

At COP27, Dr. Waite will call on nations to commit resources to ocean observation, and to collaborate.  

“Too often, ocean research is curtailed by sporadic and inconsistent funding,” says Waite. “Long-term commitments are crucial, in which nations co-design and co-govern a new observing system – much like international telescopes, or the international space station.”

OFI’s participation at COP

To seek action on this climate crisis, Waite will participate in many side events and meetings at COP27 with world leaders in science, policy, and philanthropy.  

OFI will be hosting an event on November 8 at the Canada Pavilion, titled Investing in ocean observation to meet climate targets: the importance of deep blue carbon. This event will feature four speakers:

  • Dr. Anya Waite
    Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director, Ocean Frontier Institute
  • The Honourable Bernard Davis
    Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Dr. Toste Tanhua
    Co-Chair, Global Ocean Observing System
  • Dr. Anthony Rea
    Director of Infrastructure, World Meteorological Organization

Updates will be shared during the conference through OFI’s Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

List of Events

OFI will participate in the following events, with Waite serving as a keynote speaker, moderator, and panelist (subject to change):

Investing in ocean observation to meet climate targets: the importance of deep blue carbon
Keynote addresses followed by a panel discussion on the need to measure, manage and report on carbon to enable improved climate forecasts to inform global climate policy and strategy.
Date: 8 November 10:15 – 11:11
Location: Canada Pavilion
Host: Ocean Frontier Institute

Earth Information Day
Three panel discussions focused on challenges, solutions and ways forward for Earth Observations to support the Paris Agreement and integrated planning and management of adaptation, early warning systems and mitigation, as well as reporting for adaptation and mitigation.
Date: 9 November 10:00 –12:55
Plenary 1
Host: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Ocean observations for climate change: from local observations to a global system
Keynote addresses and a roundtable discussion focused on our vision to build the global ocean observing system to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  
Date: 10 November=16:30 – 17:30
Location: Ocean Pavilion  
Host: Global Ocean Observing System and Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean

The interplay of machine learning and earth sciences in assessing coral reefs and other marine habitats
A panel discussion on the impact of climate change on coastal coral reefs and other marine habitats, covering extended topics on the ecology, physiology, and biodiversity of coral reefs. The session will also address the need for a better understanding of the situations of coral reefs and marine habitats under climate change, which is an essential outcome for stakeholders and decision-makers in implementing effective plans for climate adaptation.
Date: 10 November 18:00 – 19:00
Location: Thematic Room P20
Host: Egyptian Space Agency

Blue carbon: the ocean's role in fighting climate change
A panel discussion on how ocean research will help us to continue to understand and harness the ocean’s unique contribution.  
Date: 11 November 15:00 – 16:00
Location: Ocean Pavilion
Host: National Oceanography Centre

The Changing Climate on the Mediterranean Basin
A panel discussion on how decision support systems and data portal are needed to address coastal areas such as the city of Alexandria, facing the risk of sea level rise as well as the expected development of tropical like aggressive events that can bring massive amount of unexpected rain and local SLR over a brief period.
Date: 14 November 18:45 – 19:45
Location: Mediterranean Pavilion  
Host: Egyptian Space Agency

Ocean-based climate restoration, and the related technology and innovation solutions to address the ocean-climate crisis
A panel discussion on next steps for creating supportive, equitable, and collaborative policy frameworks to advance ocean-based climate solutions at scale. The event will be streamed by the Climate Education Hub and the Virtual CDR Pavillion.
Date: 15 November 12:30 – 13:30
Location: Climate Education Pavilion
Host: Ocean Visions