Exploring Mercator Ocean’s partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Mercator Ocean International (MOi) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have been closely cooperating on a broad range of initiatives since the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2022. Areas of mutual interest include the development of global Ocean and coastal observation initiatives, the promotion of enhanced environmental management in developing economies and cooperation in the development of the Digital Twin of the Ocean. The UNEP is the United Nations’ Programme in charge of coordinating international activities related to environmental issues and strengthening environmental practices worldwide. 

An opportune partnership: the GEMS Ocean Programme 

In January 2024, MOi’s Director General Pierre Bahurel met with Lewis Pugh, endurance swimmer and UN Environment Programme’s Patron of the Oceans.  They had the opportunity to discuss about the potential offered by digital Ocean tools and observe changes in the sea temperature around Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Sea.  The meeting strengthened the dialogue between Mercator Ocean and the United Nations Environment Programme. 

The two organisations enjoy a productive partnership, officially inaugurated with the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2022. The partnership consists of cooperation in different areas, especially in regard to the UNEP’s Global Environment Monitoring System for the Ocean and Coasts (GEMS Ocean) Programme and its Data and Services Thematic Group. The GEMS Ocean Programme is a part of the Ocean Decade Data Coordination Group; its main mission is to support UN Member States in innovative Ocean and coastal management solutions, providing information, data and expertise through a holistic approach. The Programme also operates within the UN Ocean Decade Collaborative Centre on OceanPrediction as an endorsed Ocean Decade Programme, supporting Ocean forecasting at the regional level through collaboration with Regional Sea Programmes to safeguard the health of marine and coastal resources. 

MOi contributes actively to the Programme by providing Ocean monitoring data and indicators such as Ocean acidification, sea level, carbon dioxide sink, Ocean Heat Content (OHC), and Arctic/Antarctic Sea ice extent. The data is accessible through the World Environment Situation Room (WESR), UNEP’s knowledge centre hosting openly accessible environmental data and information sources by UN agencies and regional or international organisations. 

One of the most notable contributions of Mercator Ocean to the WESR is the UNEP version of the MyOcean Tool viewer hosted on the WESR website. The tool connects the freely accessible Copernicus Marine Service viewer and datasets to UNEP’s platform through a user-friendly interface. Overall, Mercator Ocean International’s expertise in science-based Ocean observation plays a crucial role in enhancing the capabilities of the World Environment Situation Room to monitor and understand the dynamics of the Ocean. 

Other avenues of cooperation 

Cooperation between MOi and UNEP does not stop at the GEMS Ocean Programme but touches other aspects of oceanography and Ocean governance. They are dedicated to collaborative efforts in pioneering projects such as the ambitious Digital Twin of the Ocean initiative, designed to create a detailed virtual representation of the ocean. Additionally, they are focusing on citizen engagement programs to involve the public in ocean conservation efforts. Regional pilot projects are also planned to tackle critical issues such as land-sea interactions, climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, aiming to implement sustainable solutions and raise awareness at both local and global levels. Through these initiatives, UNEP and MOi aim to drive significant progress in marine science, policy, and public engagement, ultimately contributing to the preservation and sustainable use of ocean resources.

UNEP and MOi hold regular meetings to discuss their joint efforts and further potential cooperation on areas of common interest. 

The United Nations Environment Programme 

The UNEP was founded in1972 and is tasked with coordinating responses to environmental changes worldwide by engaging with UN Member States, civil society and organisations. Its activities strengthen collective actions against climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.  

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