GEO Symposium 2021

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) held its annual symposium online from 21 to 24 June 2021, with the aim to strengthen partnerships across the GEO Work Programme of Activities. Three sessions focused on ocean observations, two of which were organised by GEO’s Blue Planet Initiative.

Today, GEO has over 135 Participating Organisations, many of which have a stake in ocean related monitoring activities. The convening power of GEO can thus provide the partnership foundation upon which a coordinated and effective Earth observations contribution to the Ocean Decade may be built. – Douglas Cripe, Senior Scientific Advisor, GEO Secretariat

Ocean and Climate Plenary Session

This session focused on the complex interactions between oceans and climate, along with the impacts of other pressures on ocean health, including pollution and harvesting of marine life, as well as on adaptation and mitigation action needed to address them. The knowledge and scientific findings from the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, the 2020 Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue under the UNFCCC, as well as the upcoming UNFCCC Climate COP26 in Glasgow, and the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (Ocean Decade) provided the background for the session.

Samy Djavidnia, the lead editor of the “Oceans and Society: Blue Planet” book and currently an independent member of Blue Planet’s Management and Steering Committee, presented the GEO’s Blue Planet Initiative, highlighting its role in stakeholder engagement and identifying opportunities with the Ocean Decade and new Earth observation tools to catalyse actions to address the ocean-climate nexus.

Oceans are an essential consideration under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. GEO can contribute to data and climate service for preparation, monitoring, reporting and verification of national adaptation plans, implementation of nationally determined contributions and measuring long term progress including through the global stocktake. By understanding the policy process, the binding requirements, and the different implementing mechanisms of the Paris Agreement, and discussing the needs at national level, GEO Blue Planet and the other GEO initiatives/flagships will be in a position to provide the Earth observations necessary for delivering the required climate services and indicators. – Samy Djavidnia, European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)

Building a community to address the challenge of marine debris

Marine Debris including plastic poses an increasing threat to the marine biosphere and, in return, to human health and food security. It is a global and transdisciplinary issue that is addressed by many of GEO’s flagship programmes, initiatives, regional nodes and community activities.

The GEO Blue Planet Working Group on Marine Debris and the IEEE OES Plastic in the Ocean Initiative are exploring novel ways to engage with stakeholders that aim to tackle the problem of reducing this threat. The session reviewed the role of Earth observations in providing evidence of marine debris and its devastating impacts. It also served to present the Marine Debris Virtual Community Centre , a virtual platform linking experts who create relevant knowledge to stakeholders who need the evidence and knowledge in the planning and monitoring of activities that aim to reduce marine debris discharged into the ocean or already in the ocean.

This builds on from GEO Blue Planet’s side-event on marine debris in the Atlantic Ocean during the All-Atlantic 2021 R&I for a Sustainable Ocean Conference in early June 2021. For more information on this event, click here.

GEO and the Ocean Decade

The Ocean Decade outcomes align with many GEO priorities including open access to ocean data and information, integrated multi-hazard warning systems, ecosystem and pollution mapping and monitoring. The Ocean Decade is in its early stages and in the process of establishing how contributions will be organised and implemented.

This parallel session began a series of discussions to see how best GEO can support programmes of the Ocean Decade. GEO will support stakeholder engagement for relevant Ocean Decade activities, which will in turn develop new tools that will support GEO member countries, participating organisations and GEO Work Programme activities.

The session included presentations and a panel discussion with representatives from six Ocean Decade programmes (ForeSea, CoastPredict, Marine Life 2030, Observing Together, ObsCoDe and Digital Twins of the Ocean). These programmes will directly contribute to enhancing the access and use of ocean and coastal observations for societal benefits.

GEO has an important role to play in engaging stakeholders and facilitating strategic partnerships in the Ocean Decade programmes on capacity development and in bridging the gap between ocean knowledge and users needs. GEO’s Blue Planet Initiative will lead engagement with the IOC of UNESCO in close coordination with relevant GEO flagship programmes, initiatives, regional nodes & community activities to contribute to the Ocean Decade.


Useful Links

Marine Debris and Sargassum side events at All-Atlantic 2021 Conference

The GEO Blue Planet EU Office, supported by EU4OceanObs, hosted two side events during the All-Atlantic 2021 R&I for a Sustainable Ocean High-level Ministerial and Stakeholders Conference. Organised in collaboration with GEO Blue Planet key project partners and working group contributors, the side events brought experts and stakeholders together to present and discuss challenges and opportunities for addressing Sargassum and marine debris across the Atlantic Ocean and its coastal areas. These are two serious growing problems affecting the health of the Atlantic Ocean, the blue economy (fisheries, tourism, etc.), and the lives of coastal communities.

For more information on two events, including recording, speaker presentations, useful resources and some key points, click here.



OceanVisions2021 Summit

Ocean Visions 2021 Summit

The Ocean Visions Summit “Towards a Global Ecosystem for Ocean Solutions” took place online from 18 to 21 May 2021. Over 4 days, the summit brought together a diverse community of researchers, innovators, decision-makers, funders, and citizens from all over the world working to find solutions for the unprecedented challenges and threats our oceans are facing. From ocean-based solutions and climate and equitable coastal strategies for resilience and adaptation, to developing marine circular economies and transforming ocean research into sustainable businesses, the Ocean Visions Summit brought over 2,300 participants together from 80 different countries.    

Early Career Ocean Professionals discussion on Ocean Plastic Solutions

During the summit, GEO Blue Planet teamed up with the Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs) to host a breakaway ECOPs discussion on ocean plastic solutions with UNEP on 19 May. During the session, Heidi Savelli and Marta Ottogalli from UNEP presented the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) platform – an open-source, multi-stakeholder information and data tool that compiles different resources, connects stakeholders and integrates data on marine litter to inform decision-making. GEO Blue Planet’s Working Group on Marine Debris is currently collaborating with GPML on the development of the platform by providing a white paper on Monitoring Marine Litter and Informing Action.

Chaired by Audrey Hasson, the GEO Blue Planet EU coordinator, the session also facilitated a brainstorming session on addressing current challenges on marine litter such as a lack of coordination and need for co-development of solutions. ECOPs participants shared a strong interest in the GPML digital platform, which presents opportunities to learn about data origins, best practices and measurement standards as well as available training and collaboration support in addressing marine litter.

Panel discussion during session “Healthy Ocean Healthy People”

Audrey Hasson also participated on May 20 in the panel discussion on Ocean Plastic Solutions during the “Healthy Ocean Healthy People” Session together with Erik van Sebille (Utrecth University), Sigi Gruber (former European Commission official), Richmond Kennedy Quarcoo (Plastic Punch Ghana), and the session moderator Delphine Lobelle (Utrecht University).

During this session, the issues raised during the ECOPs discussion were put forward. Audrey Hasson strongly encouraged participants to engage with ECOPs who demonstrated their eagerness to be part of the solutions but lack networking opportunity and information on how to collaborate with local governments and higher-level structures. Setting up a transgenerational group was suggested to foster synergies between actors and to enhance impacts.

For more information and to access recordings of main scientific sessions, visit the event website by clicking here