one ocean summit

Connecting Ocean Science to Society: An Emergency

Looking back at the “One Ocean Summit”, by oceans connectes

In Brest, on 11 February 2022, at the invitation of the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, some forty heads of state and government met to make joint commitments to preserve the oceans.
During this unprecedented “One Ocean Summit”, numerous announcements were made. They mark a strong international political will to act urgently for the health of the oceans.
Numerous international meetings are scheduled for 2022, in particular the UN summit on the oceans to be held in June in Lisbon. The announcements from the recent summit in Brest are a promising sign of momentum.

Strong and positive “Brest commitments”

As part of this new dynamic, the international summit was marked by thirteen strong political commitments for the health of the oceans. These commitments, which are now known as the “Brest Commitments”, are divided into four main themes:

  • Protection of marine ecosystems and promotion of sustainable fisheries: many states have reaffirmed their intention to protect 30% of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by 2030. France has achieved 33% marine protected areas, thanks to the extension of the French Southern and Antarctic Territories nature reserve. In addition, control and sanction measures must be put in place or strengthened to combat illegal fishing and preserve marine biodiversity
  • The fight against plastic pollution: negotiations on a legally binding international treaty on plastic pollution, which have been under discussion for several months, are due to resume next spring. This treaty should pave the way for the end of single-use plastic. In addition, many banks and investors have pledged to invest in projects to reduce plastic waste in the oceans
  • The fight against climate change: the restoration and conservation of coastal ecosystems were unanimously recognised as necessary measures for mitigating and adapting to climate change, based on the potential solutions offered by the ocean itself. Additional commitments were announced for the development of offshore renewable energy, as well as for the decarbonisation and “greening” of maritime transport
  • A High Seas Treaty: A coalition of the 27 EU Member States and 13 other countries is committed to adopting a High Seas Treaty this year. The aim of the treaty is the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. These areas begin 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from the coast and represent 64% of the oceans. Their exploitation is currently not subject to any legal framework.
one planet summit
Le Président français Emmanuel Macron entouré de chefs d'États et de gouvernements lors du One Ocean Summit, le vendredi 11 février 2022 à Brest © EPA

During this first edition of the “One Ocean Summit”, two days of forums and workshops punctuated the debates prior to the meeting of the heads of state and government. Scientists, sailors, associations, entrepreneurs, local authorities and civil society exchanged their knowledge, experiences and points of view on the solutions to be adopted for a sustainably preserved ocean.
With one unanimous observation: we cannot protect what we do not know; it is therefore necessary to increase our knowledge of the ocean.

Scientists have been cooperating internationally for several decades, notably through UNESCO’s IOC (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission). In order to pool their resources and carry out experiments at sea and research work, most major oceanographic projects are built on the principle of international cooperation.
Today, it is on the strength of the experience of these international programmes that scientists are alerting us to the deteriorating state of health of an ocean that is suffocating under the weight of human activities: overexploitation, pollution, acidification etc…

Despite this, we are still a long way from understanding the richness, diversity, functioning and all the mechanisms that govern our oceans. Society and all of its stakeholders must invest in oceanographic sciences over the long term. This is a necessity for better understanding, better action and better preservation.

bateau glacier
Campagne océanographique Ovide en Atlantique-Nord © P.Lherminier - IFREMER

Connecting science and society, an emergency

The challenges ahead to preserve a suffocating ocean are immense. And science is now telling us with certainty: it is high time to act!

We need to act quickly now and differently, to change some of our habits, to take a different path.
Science shows us the field of possibilities. It sheds light on this new path to be taken. But it will only be worthwhile if it is shared. It is therefore essential today to share knowledge, to share data, and to renew the dialogue between science and society.

Ocean sciences are a pillar of the science-education-protection triptych that must guide our actions. Innovative tools for training and education in oceanography must be developed at all levels and for all actors of our society.
The political decision itself must be taken with knowledge and consistency. In the long term, environmental education, and ocean education in particular, must help change mentalities.

education science

This “One Ocean Summit” was an unprecedented opportunity for a strong affirmation of political will and multilateral maritime governance, in a post-pandemic world that must see the ocean in the long term. This is a very positive signal for the year 2022, which will put the ocean in the spotlight in many international political meetings, and which should see the concrete implementation of these “Brest Commitments”.

In the same vein, it is now urgent to connect science and society. We must ensure that scientific knowledge of the oceans becomes part of our common and shared culture of the oceans. This is the only way we will be able to collectively meet the challenges we face.

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