Visitors from nearly 200 countries recently descended upon the vibrant and bustling North African city of Marrakech to attend the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22). The 2016 conference, hosted by Morocco from Nov. 7-18, was the latest in a series of global climate change policy negotiations led by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Some 20,000 people attended COP22, including the largest-ever delegation of students and researchers from the University of California San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Amid the two-week frenzy of international policy negotiations, Scripps and UC researchers were on hand to inform delegates and negotiators of the most up-to-date climate science findings.
Read more about the role Scripps had at COP22 here.
Deborah Sullivan Brennan of the San Diego Union Tribune interviewed three UCSD graduate students, Natalya Gallo, Osinachi Ajoku, and Christine Pereira, as they were getting ready to depart to Marrakech, Morocco for COP22. A dozen UCSD students will be attending the COP to discuss their research and network with top scientists and government leaders. The San Diego Union Tribune Article can be viewed here.
“Is there anyone in the negotiations representing the oceans?” The researcher from Brazil was glancing over the oceans pamphlet I had just handed her at our blue zone booth, concern hanging in her voice. She said she had read over her country’s INDCs and found specific mention of forestry, agriculture, and renewables, but no talk of Brazil’s thousands of kilometers of coastline connecting it directly to the ocean.
The short answer is no, our oceans do not have their own negotiators (despite covering 71% of our globe), but there are more oceans advocates than ever here as this Paris Agreement forms. While I wasn’t at COP21 for last week’s landmark Oceans Day and the numerous ocean-related events the Scripps Institution of Oceanography hosted, the climate-related services our oceans provide and the subsequent impacts they feel have certainly been highlighted this week. From Monday’s summarization of recommendations for including oceans during “The Importance of Addressing Oceans and Coasts in an Ambitious Agreement at the UNFCCC COP 21” to yesterday’s panel of Scripps students at the US Center, the oceans are continually popping up around the conference center.
Caption: NOAA’s Tom Di Liberto and Amanda McCarty join Scripps students Yassir Eddebbar, Natalya Gallo, Kaitlyn Lowder, and Matt Siegfried at a US Center panel highlighting current ocean and ice-related science. Photo credit: Kirk Sato, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Even more importantly, this dialogue has apparently been carried into negotiations rooms. As of yesterday’s draft, the preamble says the parties to the agreement are “Noting the needs and integrity of terrestrial ecosystems, oceans and Mother Earth.” While it is still unclear which country or countries advocated for this wording, it is likely they have had contact with Scripps’ Natalya Gallo. Natalya has been instrumental in building connections with many negotiators and ensuring they understand how they benefit from healthy oceans. While each country has slightly differing concerns, our Brazilian booth visitor knew that fish and shrimp stocks had been declining and was concerned that climate change could exacerbate these problems. The challenges facing these countries are not easy or quick to tackle, but the first step to making sure the global causes are addressed is voicing them at this COP and working to ensure they are broadly recognized in this agreement. As of now, we are thrilled about the current state of the text!
I arrived in Paris on Sunday morning, the day before the UNFCCC COP21 was scheduled to begin. After dropping off my luggage at my hotel, I hopped back on the RER B train to Le Bourget, where COP21 is being held. This being my first time to attend a COP, I wanted to get a lay of the land before the conference began in earnest. As the shuttle pulled up to the conference site, I was greeted by an impressive display of tall pillars representing the national flags of all of the many different countries attending COP21.
After collecting my badge and entering the central site of the Conference I began navigating through the various buildings and walkways and corridors that comprise COP21, and was continually struck by both the impressive size of the conference as well as the incredibly diverse representation of countries, organizations, groups, and collaborations. Since the official activities had not yet begun, the atmosphere was still relatively quiet; attendees trickled in throughout the afternoon, preparing the exhibits, booths, and meeting rooms, which would stage the deliberation and negotiation of the proposed Paris Agreement.