At the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, 2020 the UN welcomed the Implementation Plan for the UN Ocean Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) (Ocean Decade). As the responsible UN agency for developing the Implementation Plan and now as the host agency of its governance, the IOC will play a critical role in not only administering the Ocean Decade but in contribution to its goals through IOC programmes (see the IOC Medium Term Strategy 2022-2029).
Recognising the need to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health to improve conditions for the sustainable development of the ocean, seas and coasts, the Ocean Decade framework aims to deliver ‘the science we need for the ocean we want’. The Ocean Decade outcomes and the challenges are described in brief below, further details can be found in the Implementation Plan (Summary here).
Outcomes and Challenges
The Decade is a transformative vision to deliver the ‘science needed for the future we want’ painted by the following outcomes:
- A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and reduced or removed.
- A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are understood, protected, restored and managed.
- A productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and a sustainable ocean economy.
- A predicted ocean where society understands and can respond to changing ocean conditions.
- A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards.
- An accessible ocean with open and equitable access to data, information and technology and innovation.
- An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean in relation to human wellbeing and sustainable development.
The Decade vision/mission and outcomes will require the engagement of many different stakeholders to create new ideas, solutions, partnerships and applications, these include: scientists, governments, academics, policy makers, business, industry and civil society.
The Ocean Decade Challenges represent the most immediate and pressing priorities for the Decade at the global, regional, national and local scales. While they may evolve with emerging issues, they largely shape the overall contribution of the Decade and will unite Decade partners. Below the Ocean Decade Challenges sit the Ocean Decade Objectives. These objectives include:
- Identification of ocean knowledge required for sustainable development
- Generation of data, information and knowledge for a comprehensive understanding of the ocean
- Use of knowledge and understanding to deploy solutions for sustainable development
In order to fulfill the Objectives and Challenges, there will be a number of Ocean Decade Actions. These are represented by initiatives that will be implemented by Decade stakeholders.
The official high-level launch of the Ocean Decade took place online on 1st June 2021, with various events taking place throughout 2021, such as Ocean Laboratories, training courses and Ocean Hackathon. 2021 also saw the first call to action (01/12020) for '(1) Large-scale, multi-country, transformative programmes and (2) Large-scale contributions of in-kind or financial resources for Decade Actions or coordination costs'. The first set of endorsed actions were announced in June 2021.
The IOC Assembly enables the UK to steer and contribute to the goals of the Decade:
- At the 30th IOC Assembly in 2019, the UK made a number of interventions regarding the Decade including voicing its commitment to the Decade (e.g. providing financial support during the preparation phase, hosting the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed2030 Global Data Centre and continuing research under the Harmful Algal Bloom programme) and encouraging continued work regarding the endorsement process.
- At the 31st IOC Assembly in 2021, the UK co-sponsored with 14 other Member States a resolution, which was later adopted, to establish the Decade Advisory Board and to voice support a number of registered and planned IOC-led Ocean Decade actions.
Through a number of capacity building links, the UK supports the IOC's regional office in the Caribbean via the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme, the re-invigoration of the regional committee for the Indian Ocean, and other projects via Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding, such as those provided via the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).
Members of the UK Marine Science community are part of the UK National Decade Committee. The role of an NDC is to help facilitate and coordinate UK Decade activities, amongst other things, so the majority of the Decade updates will be on the committee website UKNDC - UK National Decade Committee (uk-ndc.org).
The UK is participating in a number endorsed decade actions across many different topic areas. Examples include these, from the very first endorsed Decade Actions:
- Ocean Conservation Trust contributing to the Ocean Literacy With All.
- NOC leading the JETZON programme
- Ocean Decade Heritage Network (co-Chaired by Anthony Firth, Fjordr) leading the Cultural Heritage Framework Programme
- Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (co-Chaired by Steve Widdicome, PML) leading the Ocean Acidification Research for Sustainability
- Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (UK involvement at the Executive level, Advisory Board and working group leads) leading on Challenger 150
- UK partners involved in the GOOS-led programmes (e.g. Ocean Observing Co-Design, Observing Together).
The UK hosted the G7 Presidency in 2021. Part of the agreed Nature Compact was to support the UN Ocean Decade. Within the Climate and Environment communique, the G7 Ocean Decade Navigation Plan was announced. This plan is a framework through which 'the G7 will collaborate and advance our collective work on ocean science, ocean observing and ocean action throughout the UN Ocean Decade'. The the G7 Future of the Seas and Ocean Initiative (FSOI) Working Group refreshed their priorities in 2019, and in 2021 agreed on a number of refined activities. Three scientific spotlight activities were put forward support three Ocean Decade outcomes (predicted, accessible and an inspiring and engaging): Global Ocean Indicators, the Digital Twin Ocean and Net Zero Oceanographic Capability (now Future Marine Research Infrastructure).
Credit: Abigail Marshall (Left & Centre), Leighton Rolley (Right)