The National Oceanography Centre at COP27

At COP27, countries come together to take action towards achieving the world’s collective climate goals as agreed under the Paris Agreement and the Convention. Building on the outcomes and momentum of COP26 in Glasgow last year, nations are expected to demonstrate at COP27 that they are in a new era of implementation by turning their commitments under the Paris Agreement into action.

Below are the National Oceanography Centre’s (NOC) key messages, key COP events that will be attended by the NOC and recent NOC News stories relating to COP themes, ahead of the conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from Monday 7 to Friday 18 November 2022.

Professor Ed Hill’s COP27 statement

  • Prof. Ed Hill

    The ocean and the climate are inextricably linked. There is no solution to the challenges of climate change without the ocean at its heart – playing a role in absorbing carbon and taming the warming of our planet. This is why we’re delighted to be part of the first ever Ocean Pavilion at COP – bringing together the ocean community to promote its importance, and the science that underpins its future. That future includes sensing what is happening, not just over years but decades to identify the changes in this environment, warn us of sudden changes and extreme events, guide ocean actions, and monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of those actions.

  • It means researching the ocean to understand whether the absorption of carbon continues as we have seen over thousands of years, or begins to slow and impact on our climate still further. And to protect people and the ocean – from rising sea levels, acidification and natural disasters that are becoming more prevalent and sustained.

    At NOC we are part of a national and global community of ocean experts feeding into policy-makers, putting science at the heart of decision-making and being the advocate for the ocean. COP27 offers an opportunity to deliver for our ocean and for the whole planet too.

The NOC’s key COP27 messages

We call on all governments to ensure that the ocean is an integral part of climate change discussions, solutions and mitigations. We call for specific actions to promote, observe, research and protect our ocean – these are our four key messages. Taken together, these actions will provide the science we need for the ocean we want.

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The ocean is too big to ignore. It plays a fundamental role in mitigating climate change by serving as a major heat and carbon sink. Important solutions to address climate change are found in the ocean ranging from clean, secure energy through to sustainable food. As said at COP26, ocean action is climate action – there is no climate solution without a healthy ocean.

The ocean also suffers the effects of climate change, as evidenced by changes in temperature, currents, acidity and sea level rise. As concerns about climate change increase, the interrelationship between the ocean, biodiversity, carbon absorption and climate change must be recognised, understood, and incorporated into global government policies. All governments should commit to increasing ocean literacy and ensuring that every discussion on our climate includes the ocean.

The ocean is changing rapidly and important tipping points in the climate system are oceanic. You cannot manage what you cannot measure and continuous ocean sensing at global, basin, and regional level are important to periodically assess the state of the ocean, to inform ocean actions and to monitor and evaluate the impacts of policy actions. This also provides early warnings of tipping points and as part of multi-hazard warning systems for extreme events such as flooding and extreme weather.

Satellite sensors see only the surface skin, so underwater ocean sensing is essential to detect and track changes happening at depth. Ocean observations in the 60% of the ocean outside Exclusive Economic Zones are mainly supported by short term research projects, which is not systematic and leaves gaps of coverage in space and time.

The Global Ocean Observing System for sensing Essential Ocean and Climate Variables is the base of a value chain of openly accessible data and information. It should be viewed as a global information infrastructure and be financed as such, rather than rely so heavily on ad hoc short-term research projects. All nations should make commitments to finance reasonable national shares of the global ocean monitoring necessary to track climate change impacts.

There are important knowledge gaps and uncertainties regarding fundamentals of how the ocean works and to secure the information needed to reduce key uncertainties and to better understand ocean related tipping points. The UNESCO Global Ocean Science Report demonstrates scientific and technical capacity to discover, access and use ocean data and information is unevenly distributed across the world with capacity development especially urgently needed in Africa. We need to understand the size, stability and variability of ocean and coastal carbon sinks to inform their restoration and to conserve biodiversity and provide economic benefits to communities that rely in these ecosystems.

In a world striving for solutions, we need to ensure that blue carbon and nature-based solutions have the impact we want, in the way we want. Altering delicate ecosystems such as through large-scale carbon dioxide removal may have unintended consequences – we must understand and address these in our quest to tackle the climate change emergency. And research plays a fundamental role – if the ocean’s absorption of carbon slows or even stops, all climate change predictions could be wrong.

Countries should invest in new technologies that can massively increase coverage of continuous global, underwater ocean monitoring but without necessarily having to increase the number of research ships, including through the use of autonomy. The next generation of research ships should be Zero Emissions Vessels, planned and built in the coming years.

By 2050 it is estimated that over one billion people will live in low-lying coastal areas. It is essential to increase the resilience of coastal communities and infrastructure to the impacts of sea level rise and extreme weather resulting in flooding and coastal erosion.

Important global and regional ocean observing systems can provide multi-hazard warning systems to help improve community resilience. We need to see investment in the upgrading of the global network of coastal and island tide gauges for monitoring long-term sea-level trends, improving multi-hazard warning systems. This data can be shared worldwide to create a ‘digital ocean’, offering increased understanding and ability to drive change.

What is COP27

  • COP27 is a ‘Conference of the Parties’ (or nations) who are signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This is the 27th annual conference being held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on 5–18 November 2022. The meeting brings together parties to discuss and agree on steps to address climate change. The Kyoto Protocol (1997) and then the Paris Agreement (2016), were agreed through UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties.

  • In addition to the party negotiations which involve government delegations, ‘observer organisations’ including scientific organisations, non-governmental organisations and industry groups engage in the conference to stimulate discussions on issues related to climate change. There is a ‘Blue Zone’ to each COP conference where accredited organisations and consortia hold side events and discussions.

The National Oceanography Centre – who we are and what we are doing

  • The National Oceanography Centre is one of the world’s leading centres of expertise on the ocean’s interaction with climate change.

    Our scientists lead ground-breaking research into climate change, sea level rise, carbon uptake and storage, and monitoring how the ocean is changing. Our engineers are developing innovative ocean sensing technologies, including miniaturised highly accurate micro-sensors and autonomous underwater vehicles, to help us measure and track change in the ocean as part of the Global Ocean Observing System.

  • We operate large research infrastructures including global class research ships. We have been leading a project to scope future net zero oceanographic capabilities.

    Our scientists and technologists gather and manage openly-accessible data used by people the world over, to understand and map the ocean. We model what might happen to the oceans with ongoing climate change, and we play a key role in supporting mitigation of climate change through nature based and engineering solutions.

The NOC at COP27

  • How digital twins of the ocean can transform science and the world

    Thursday 10 November

    Digital twins allow us to track how and why the things we care about are changing and simulate what their futures could be, including by exploring ‘what if?’ scenarios. In May 2022 the UK hosted the International Digital Twins of the Ocean Summit 2022, building on the outcomes of the UK G7 Presidency 2021. This event allows an opportunity to further develop a unified vision on digital twins of the ocean, contribute to their development, and explore their utility – a key aim set out in the summit back in May.

    Participants: Dr Katy Hill, UK G7 Marine Science Coordinator (chair); Dr John Siddorn, Associate Director, Digital Ocean, NOC; Anne Cohen, Associate Scientist, WHOI; Professor Martin Visbeck, Head of the Research Unit, GEOMAR (remote).

  • Blue carbon: the ocean’s role in fighting climate change

    Friday 11 November

    There is no climate solution without the ocean, and research will help us to continue to understand and harness the ocean’s unique contribution. The term “blue carbon” may be used holistically to refer to the removal of carbon in marine systems by biological processes - from the coast to the deep ocean. Blue carbon is being discussed more and more by policy-makers and this event aims to ensure that policy is driven by the science, delivering the climate change impacts we all need.

    Participants: Professor Ed Hill, Chief Executive Officer, NOC (chair); Professor Gideon Henderson, Chief Scientific Adviser Defra (remote); Dr Jim Edson, Senior Scientist, WHOI; Dr Anya Waite, Director of OFI Canada, and GOOS Co-Chair; Dr Karina Von Schukmann, Mercator.

  • Observing our ocean: How ocean observation can help protect our planet

    Tuesday 15 November

    For the climate, the Ocean is our greatest resource. Changes to the global climate need to be monitored over decades. The ocean observing system should therefore be treated as essential public good infrastructure, and funded accordingly. Speakers will explore the importance of observing programmes to our global understanding, and questions will be invited from the floor to further discussions around a collaborative, long-term future for observing our ocean as an underpinning for climate action.

    Participants (Panel 1): Professor Angela Hatton, Director of Data, Science and Technology and Chief Scientist, NOC and Principal Investigator for the Climate Linked Atlantic Sector Science (CLASS) Programme; François Houllier, Ifremer CEO; Karina Von Schuckmann, Mercator Ocean International; Pierre Bahurel, Director General, Mercator.

    Participants (Panel 2): Professor Ed Hill, Chief Executive Officer, NOC; Jérôme Aucan, Head of the Pacific Community Center for Ocean Science; Dr Margaret Leinen, Director, Scripps.

  • Ocean acidification: what is happening in our ocean and why this matters

    Wednesday 16 November

    As the ocean absorbs more and more carbon dioxide, it becomes more acidic. This impacts on all marine life, especially organisms like oysters and corals that make hard shells and skeletons by combining calcium and carbonate from seawater. This event aims to explain what is happening in our ocean, the importance of continual monitoring and the true impacts changes could have on our planet.

    Participants: Prof Angela Hatton, NOC; Prof Steve Widdicombe, PML; Dr Lisa Levin, Scripps and the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI); Dr Kirsten Isensee, Programme Specialist, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.

The Ocean Pavilion

We are partnering with leaders in ocean science, engineering, and policy to host the Ocean Pavilion at COP27.

For the first time, the ocean is taking centre stage inside the COP Blue Zone. The Ocean Pavilion aims to carry the message that the ocean matters to everyone, everywhere and that science must lead the way in our quest for safe, long-term solutions to climate change.

Find out more about the pavilion