GEO Symposium 2021

21-24 June 2021

More than 100 organisations joined GEO’s annual symposium to strengthen partnerships and advance Earth observations that effectively contribute to the Ocean Decade.

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.