One Planet - Polar Summit: New Ocean Decade Programme announced for Antarctica

[10. November 2023] 

In the context of the “One Planet - Polar Summit”, taking place on 8-10 November in Paris, France and hosted by the Paris Peace Forum, UNESCO announced the endorsement of a new major programme aimed at better understanding, protecting and sustainably managing the Southern Ocean and Antarctica in the framework of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (‘Ocean Decade’).

The facts are clear: hundreds of millions of lives are at risk due to melting ice and increasing sea levels. In addition, the populations that depend on glaciers, particularly for access to fresh water, face enormous challenges. All of humanity is therefore concerned.

Since Wednesday 8 November, hundreds of representatives from government, research and civil society have been gathered in Paris to discuss the protection of the Arctic and Antarctic. On the last day of the Summit, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, announced the official endorsement of a new initiative as an Ocean Decade Action: Antarctica InSync (International Science & Infrastructure for Synchronous Observation).

Antarctica InSync is a programme for synchronous scientific observations in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to allow for a circumpolar assessment of the connections between ice, ocean, climate, environment and life, including human pressures, and their solutions such as marine protection. It contributes to the Decade Collaborative Centre for the Southern Ocean Region (DCC-SOR) led by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

“This endorsement is in line with the Arctic and Southern Ocean Action Plans developed as part of the Ocean Decade,” explained Audrey Azoulay. “Antarctica InSync, just like these Plans, seek to reinforce scientific cooperation on issues related to polar regions, promote data and knowledge sharing and provide a roadmap for strengthening links between science, industry and decision-making.”

Remoteness and extreme climate conditions remain a challenge to international research, and especially coordinated synergistic observation in Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Ocean. Solving these challenges is beyond the skills and infrastructure of any single science programme or nation. That is why the German Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) will join forces with institutions from e.g., Australia, Canada, France, India, Italy, New Zealand, Monaco, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America, to pave the way for a broad-based research programme.

The preparatory phase will start in 2024, aligning the scientific and infrastructure processes for synchronous multidisciplinary observation. Effort will go to the scientific bottom-up process via SCAR, the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) and other bodies, and to establishing alliances and working groups with all stakeholders, logistic teams and a growing framework of international collaboration.

The implementation and analysis phase will cover the period from 2027 to 2030 with joint field campaigns for land, sea and air. Field observations will include all components of the Antarctic/Southern Ocean region – ocean, ice, land, atmosphere. It will also specifically address the unique biodiversity of this region and combine different strategies and technologies for observation, including process studies and remote-sensing initiatives.

The Antarctica InSync programme joins the portfolio of 47 other major ocean programmes that are being implemented as part of the Ocean Decade, a UN wide initiative which is being coordinated by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.


About the Ocean Decade:

Proclaimed in 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) (‘the Ocean Decade’) seeks to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyse new opportunities for sustainable development of this massive marine ecosystem. The vision of the Ocean Decade is ‘the science we need for the ocean we want’. The Ocean Decade provides a convening framework for scientists and stakeholders from diverse sectors to develop the scientific knowledge and the partnerships needed to accelerate and harness advances in ocean science to achieve a better understanding of the ocean system, and deliver science-based solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The UN General Assembly mandated UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC/UNESCO) to coordinate the preparations and implementation of the Decade.


Website of the One Planet Summit:


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