Young people question the heads of State during the World Oceans Day

© Surfrider

On June 8, Tara Expéditions organized with UNESCO the World Oceans Day. In the presence of Northern and Southern heads of State, scientists, sailors, organizations and shipowners were brought together at the Ocean & Climate Platform to discuss a number of crucial issues on Ocean and Climate change. JOINING THEM WERE STUDENTS GATHERED AT THE UNESCO HEADQUARTERS UNDER THE BANNER OF “TOGETHER, LET’S GIVE A VOICE TO THE OCEAN” FOR THE UPCOMING 2015 CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE, IN PARIS.

At 10am, after the opening session in the presence of Mr. Laurent Fabius, Minister for Foreign Affairs, the participating students met with Claude Lorius in the main hall. This 83 year-old glaciologist has participated in more than 20 Antarctica campaigns. He is one of the scientists who thought about using the air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice cores to reconstruct past climate conditions. He says that the idea occurred to him while looking at bubbles in an ice cube at the bottom of his whiskey glass. It is this particular work that helped establish the link between atmospheric CO2 concentration and climate. Patricia Ricard, president of the Institut Océanographique Paul Ricard, led this simple and touching conversation with climatologist Valérie Masson-Delmotte.

Each group then went to work on one of the four workshops: 1) the social and economic impacts of climate change, 2) the physical and biological effects of these changes, 3) the role of the ocean in climate negotiations and 4) the ocean: source of innovation and commitment.

The allocated time for these workshops was short, about two hours, (for each group to compose two or three messages and bring them to the assembly’s attention. Specialists assisted the delegates with professional insights or support. In short order, all expressed their views, priorities and concerns regarding the ocean. Simple notes written on colored papers listed, for each group, a mix of ideas, concepts and disparate proposals that required integration.

It is fascinating to observe how a time constraint obliges to focus on the important. At the appointed time, after lively discussions and personal commitment, each group had retained 3 or 4 key messages they wished to convey.

The delegates of each workshop then presented to the other groups the conclusions of this discussion phase. We found that the groups had convergent ideas on many points. Thus education, solidarity amongst communities and ocean governance were major concerns for young people.

Still to be accomplished was a new synthesis of the 4 groups, as well as to draft a summary of the day’s talks. To do so, fifteen delegates had two hours to compile their messages into a 5-minute communication.

Mission accomplished. The summary, remarkable in its brevity and compelling tone, was read by a male and a female student appointed by the group in the presence of various State representatives, in particular, those from small islands:

His Serene Highness the Prince Albert II of Monaco,
Mr. Tommy Remengesau, President of the Republic of Palau,
Mr. Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados,
Mr. Danny Faure, Vice-President of Seychelles,
Mr. Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Selected excerpts:

“22 millions… 22 million climate refugees in 2013. The multiple human tragedies we experience every day show an urgent need for action.”

“In order to promote our common heritage, we ask that the States implement an education policy in this field, by promoting the sharing of knowledge and cooperation between the different disciplines: sciences, economics but also politics.”

“Time is money! In order to mitigate and adapt to climate change, there is a need to add some blue into the green.”

“You are used to governing, but this isn’t enough! We desire a real cooperation to be established between the different participants at all levels.”

And to conclude with:

“You know that one out of two breaths come from the ocean, so now help us breathe.”

The group showed determination, intelligence and a true desire to go beyond discussions to achieve concrete and efficient actions. The next generation of activists is in place, let’s make room for them!

Xavier Bougeard
In charge of education

Ocean’s Call for Climate

“Given the inherent relationship between the ocean and climate systems, the decisions to be adopted during the 2015 Paris Climate Conference will have a major impact on the marine environment and the millions of people who depend on it. An ambitious Paris Agreement is therefore essential to maintain the health of the Ocean and thus allow it to ensure its vital functions in the global climate.”

Click here to learn more and sign the Ocean’s Call

Related articles:

- The Ocean & Climate Platform

- Tara Oceans reveals a new world in the ocean

- Educational resources