Virtual Ocean Pavilion at the UNFCCC COP

The ocean has greatly slowed the rate of climate change. But at a cost: the ocean has warmed, acidified and lost oxygen, whilst circulation patterns are changing, and sea levels are rising. The continuation of these changes not only threatens marine ecosystems, but also the future ability of the ocean to support life on Earth. Despite this, the ocean offers a range of key mitigation and adaptation opportunities for nations to combat climate change and increase ambition on emissions reduction and to ensure that the ocean can be developed sustainably for the benefits it provides to people around the world.

Credit: Beth Watson / Ocean Image Bank
Photo credit: Beth Watson / Ocean Image Bank


Connecting All on Our Incredible Blue Planet

31 October – 12 November 2021

Organizations and policymakers from across our blue planet have converged at this period of existential threat to create a Virtual Ocean Pavilion to increase knowledge, commitment and action for the ocean-climate nexus at the Climate Conference (COP26) in November 2021 in Glasgow.

The pavilion would be creatively stunning – how could it not be with wonderful ocean visuals and sound effects. But it would also create an ocean hub and platform to bring together the various stakeholders from across sectors (industry, finance, science, policy, Indigenous Peoples, media, youth, etc).

The Pavilion would not just focus on those already aligned with the importance of the ocean-climate-biodiversity nexus but also attract, inform and engage external actors, thus expanding ocean literacy and understanding to divulge the message that “we are all ocean stakeholders”.

Hawaiian shore © Omega Foryschowski

Why an Ocean Pavilion

The ocean and climate are intrinsically linked, one cannot function without the other, and yet the ocean has lacked any real seat at the table under the UNFCCC climate negotiations. Without this essential piece of the puzzle, climate ambition will be hindered, and the ocean crisis will worsen. Furthermore, since the majority of the global ocean has no “owners” (and therefore no representative or voice of its own like nations) but covers 72% of the world’s surface and over 90% of the living space on the planet, then it should have a pavilion all of its own and thus make that point that it is central to life on Earth. In order to give it a voice it needs a prominent presence at the climate negotiations in its own right. A dedicated Ocean Pavilion would raise the visibility of the ocean and showcase why the ocean matters in climate negotiations and to all life on our planet – not surprisingly the ocean transcends across all the COP26 Presidency themes in a unified way like no other topic, from finance to energy to nature, land, resilience, industry, transport, to cities and science and innovation. As the ocean concerns everyone, the Virtual Ocean Pavilion has the capability of engaging and reaching those that cannot attend COP26 in-person and presents a long-lasting resource for all – leaving no one behind.

Why Virtual

A virtual presence at COP26 will ensure that the Pavilion will be:

  • Totally within the co-organizers’ control in terms of timing, allowing flexibility to respond to changes in the COP26 schedule as affected by the current pandemic
  • Adaptable and scalable
  • Long-lasting and accessible – being hosted online means it will be available long-after the VOP has ended
  • Relatively less costly – eliminates the costs of a physical pavilion
  • Will be more inclusive – will reach a much wider audience than just those able to attend COP26
  • Climate friendly – reduces carbon footprint


The pavilion will be free of charge to participants and contain informative and interactive live and on-demand events with links to activities at the UNFCCC COP26. It will:
1) Highlight important ocean events such as planned by the UNFCCC Secretariat under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action (MP-GCA);
2) Host panel sessions linking the ocean with the themes of the GCA events to provide input to these discussions;
3) Feature interviews with Party negotiators to gain insights on the status of discussions;
4) Provide a gateway to ocean and climate stories from around the world.

Visitors can explore a virtual exhibition with the option to access background information as well as options on what actions they could take towards a more sustainable blue future. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore a COP26 Life Below Water Treasure Trove with, e.g., on-demand or live-streaming of ocean-related films, music, art, games, health and well-being. Throughout its duration and across its component activities, the VOP will carry key messages reinforcing the link between the ocean and climate agenda.

Hawaiian monk seal © Omega Foryschowski


Coordinated by the Global Ocean Forum, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Ocean Policy Research Institute of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the Oceano Azul Foundation, and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO under the Roadmap to Oceans and Climate Action (ROCA) Initiative, partners include the European Commission and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), UK (TBC), Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation (FPA2), Ocean & Climate Platform, World Economic Forum, World Ocean Network and Nausicaá National Sea Center, Acadia University and Coastal Zone Canada Association, Conservation International, One Ocean Hub, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.


To help realize this Virtual Ocean Pavilion, the co-organizers are welcoming sponsors as well as additional partners. Those involved will benefit from:

  • Directly contributing to the ocean presence at COP26 and vice versa; the virtual pavilion will be highlighted by those physically at the COP
  • Opportunity to help co-design the pavilion and suggest further content
  • Access to social media resources that can be used by partners and sponsors to disseminate the key messages of the VOP
  • Sponsors will have the additional options of:
    1) A ‘space in the ocean pavilion’ with their logo prominently displayed in the virtual pavilion – in both the main event space and other virtual pavilion features
    2) A range of social media assets to profile sponsor’s support of the Virtual Ocean Pavilion
    3) Invitation to attend a private view of the virtual space before it goes live to the public
    4) Acknowledgement in a range of places where the Virtual Ocean Pavilion is promoted

All contributions and donations to support the organization of the VOP are welcome.


COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion Summary Report

COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion Survey Summary Report

COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion Press Release

Miriam Balgos, Global Ocean Forum (
Carol Turley and Thecla Keizer, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (;
Miko Maekawa, Ocean Policy Research Institute of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (
Sam Collins, Oceano Azul Foundation (