Connecting All on Our Incredible Blue Planet
31 October – 12 November 2021

The first ever Virtual Ocean Pavilion (VOP) at the UNFCCC COP was the product of a coordinated effort among the Global Ocean Forum, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Ocean Policy Research Institute of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the Oceano Azul Foundation, and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO under the Roadmap to Oceans and Climate Action (ROCA) Initiative, along with 30 collaborating partners. The Pavilion, which was live from October 31 until November 12, 2021, served as a platform for the amplification of the voice of the ocean and for raising the visibility of ocean issues during climate negotiations at COP26. Due to the virtual nature of the Pavilion, which was held fully online, the Pavilion was able to reach a wider audience, including those who were unable to attend the COP in person due to COVID-19. The Pavilion drew 3,000 registrations to attend live events and to view the wealth of on-demand content available in the Pavilion’s Treasure Trove and 26 exhibit booths, which was accessible up to March 12, 2022.


The COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion had the capability of engaging and reaching those that cannot attend COP26 in person and presented a long-lasting resource for all – leaving no one behind. It also provided a climate-friendly option of participation and so reducing the Pavilion’s carbon footprint.


We built the platform and a diverse group of participants came to deliver what were some of the shining moments of the Pavilion. National and regional leaders led the way, among them:

Mr. Raj Kushaal (Fiji and Ocean Pathway Partnership) spoke during the Opening Event on November 1 about the unquantifiable value of the ocean and its resources to Fiji’s livelihoods and the threat of sea level rise to numerous villages in Fiji that are facing relocation to higher grounds. He emphasized the need for a healthy ocean that no country, regardless of size and wealth, can hope to achieve alone, and that because of the ocean’s interconnectedness, its fate rests collectively in the hands of the world. Citing Fiji’s efforts, he challenged other countries to similarly invest in the protection and management of their oceans.

Ambassador Helen Agren pointed to Sweden’s climate and ocean policies and examples of projects that they support, showing how Sweden provides its share of the solution for the world to meet the 1.5-degree Celsius goal during the Opening Event. She relayed Sweden’s support for continued integration of relevant ocean perspectives in the bodies and work programs under the UNFCCC and the hope that countries will be able to agree on a way to assess progress and share experiences in this endeavor.

The most-watched event in the Pavilion was a webinar on “Ocean & Adaptation, Resilience, and Mitigation” held on November 5, which featured expert presentations on the nexus between ocean and adaptation and resilience, show-casing initiatives around the world on ocean-based solutions, including protecting and restoring marine habitats which are important natural buffers, capacity building, and other cross-cutting approaches.

In his keynote address, Pacific Ocean Commissioner Henry Puna (Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum) spoke about three imperatives that we must realize: 1) carbon neutrality, which needs to be achieved within the next three decades; 2) the ambition of the Paris Agreement on climate finance; and 3) the need to deliver on adaptation. He emphasized that the onus is now on us to do what must be done and that together, we can achieve the realization of these imperatives. One of the key initiatives in the Pacific is the establishment of marine protected areas throughout the region. This initiative is consistent with customary conservation practices, a traditional way of life in the Pacific, and would allow them to pass on their heritage to the coming generations.

Representatives of UN and international agencies shed light on the way forward in strengthening cooperation and collaboration among relevant UN bodies in tackling ocean and climate change through current and forthcoming initiatives. In the webinar on this SBSTA Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue theme held on November 1, Vladimir Ryabinin (IOC-UNESCO), Fredrik Haag (IMO), Joanna Post (UNFCCC), Manuel Barange (FAO), and Joseph Appiott (CBD) provided their insight and perspective on their respective organizations’ initiatives in breaking the silos and building partnerships between and among UN agencies.

L-R, top-bottom: P. Thomson, UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for the Ocean; E. Maruma Mrema, CBD; V. Ryabinin, IOC-UNESCO; F. Haag, IMO; A. Troisi, IOC-UNESCO; J. Post, UNFCCC; M. Barange, FAO; J. Appiott, CBD; A. Hudson, UNDP; H. Pörtner, IPCC

The climate actions of civil society within the realm of ocean and coastal zones, including those by scientists and experts, administrators, policy analysts, financiers, educators and communication specialists, film makers, a poet and other artists, and the youth were showcased in the Pavilion’s various events, highlighting the important support that they provide in moving the implementation of the Paris Agreement along towards greater action and higher ambition.

In the webinar on the SBSTA Roundtable, the contribution of science through various initiatives which can further the break-up of silos and strengthen partnerships among UN agencies and other stakeholders was illustrated by presentations from scientists Siân Reeves (University of Plymouth), Bernadette Snow (One Ocean Hub), and Lisa Levin (SIO, UC San Diego).

A high level event on Ocean & Finance held on November 1 took up a central focus on funding for the protection of coral reefs. In his opening remarks, Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji, UN Secretary General Special Envoy for the Ocean, highlighted two major reasons for the involvement of the ocean community in the COP: 1) belief in intergenerational justice and a focus on security for the world’s youth, and 2) to ensure that the ocean has its place at the table in discussions of climate change. Ambassador Thomson stressed the need to push the climate finance needle in the direction of the sustainable blue economy and the protection of the world’s coral reefs, as the blue economy will be what provides security to future generations with coral reefs playing a key role, the extent of which is yet to be determined.

After an introduction of the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, panelists spoke about: the importance of private investors in closing the coral reef finance gap and of breaking down barriers between private and public funding; facilitation of science to inform reef positive solutions; elimination of risk for private investors; and the creation of a blended finance mechanism for the Mesoamerican Reef ecosystem.

The subsequent panel spoke about the role of insurance in providing a safety net for private sector investors in ocean finance initiatives; the need for private sector finance to close the large gap between the ocean-climate funding that is needed; the need to prioritize a larger scale of investment in infrastructure development and implementation of nature-based solutions; the role of government in translating the economic value of the ocean into revenue streams by leveling the playing field, reducing subsidies, and encouraging more sustainable behavior; and a recent study to track international aid projects for ocean conservation and climate action, noting that while the number of projects has been increasing at a steady annual rate, countries have received a small amount of funding for the projects being implemented.

The Vermont law School, in collaboration with SeyCATT, the Youth4Ocean Forum, and the World Ocean Network, organized an event which aimed at demystifying the COP among the youth on November 1. Heidi Johnson, a law student from the Vermont Law School, hosted the “Meet the Blue Expert” event which featured Angelique Pouponneau, CEO of SeyCATT, a non-profit which provides financial support for education, capacity building, and blue economy in Seychelles. Angelique talked about her educational background, her career at SeyCATT, her work on the ocean-climate nexus, and her involvement in the COP as a negotiator.

H. Johnson, Vermont Law School; A. Pouponneau, SeyCATT

The youth were unequivocal on the imperative that net zero must be achieved for them and the next generations to survive. Dr. Jack Laverick, a marine biologist at the University of Strathclyde and member of the Youth4Ocean Forum, reflected on his childhood and impending parenthood, what the world would be like for his son three decades from now if we don’t go harder and faster on climate issues, and his young person’s sense of ambition during a November 4 COP26 side event on coordination and collaboration for ocean-based mitigation and adaptation.

On November 12, in a webinar recapping their experience at COP26, 10 young people from the Youth4Ocean Forum shared their expectations of the COP, what impressed them most, and what they would do with the experience they gained.

Maëlle Montier, a marine science educator at Nausicaa Marine Science Centre, event moderator and panelist, provided an introduction of the Youth4Ocean Forum, a free platform for young ocean change makers between 16 and 30 years old, and the event, which aimed to showcase how action-driven young people can help stakeholders adapt to the climate-induced challenges placed on the ocean and thus improve sustainable development, limiting warming to 1.5 °C, and helping achieve Net Zero.

Kelsey Archer Barnhill, a PhD student from the University of Edinburgh, led the line-up of enthusiastic panelists, full of passion and ideas on how to be an “Ocean-Climate Advocate”.

Kelsey also articulated her views during a roundtable session on the final day of the COP on “Children and young people’s human rights to a healthy ocean” organized by the One Ocean Hub. A panel of youth speakers and experts discussed a variety of important topics related to the rights of children and young people to a healthy ocean, which included: the ocean-climate-human rights nexus and the issue of intergenerational justice; the power of youth voices in climate conversations; the youth-led, stakeholder-driven Global New Blue Deal; what has been done at a global level to promote the human right to a healthy environment, including the rights of children; youth perspectives on the ocean and intergenerational rights to a healthy ocean environment and the feelings of youth regarding the current climate crisis; and the importance of creating better stewards through introduction of the youth to the ocean through storytelling and the dissemination of science, especially those that have not had the opportunity to engage in direct contact with the ocean. The session called to adults to ensure that the voices of children and youth are central to the decision-making process on ocean protection and the necessity of prioritizing support of children’s participation rights in ocean decision-making.

During the November 12 Closing Event on “Working Together For Our Incredible Blue Planet,” Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat congratulated all those who have made the Virtual Ocean Pavilion possible. She stated that “platforms such as this are critical to ensuring that the voice of the ocean is not lost in these climate negotiations.”

Prior to declaring the Pavilion closed, Ariel Hernán Troisi, Chair, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO stated: “For a long time, we have used information technology, virtual means, to communicate…but this pandemic has immersed us into further use of these platforms. So now, at this UNFCCC COP26 meeting, this Virtual Ocean Pavilion has been a huge step forward. ….. This connection to our incredible blue planet, this Pavilion, allowed us to discuss sustainable ocean economies, strengthen cooperation and collaboration needed in particular among UN bodies in tackling ocean climate change, creating, implementing, and enabling framework and conditions for action through science, through capacity development and transfer of marine technology, through cross-cutting approaches with the voice of professionals and youth chats on how to become an ocean-climate advocate, working all together for this incredible blue planet.”


Eight live events were conducted during COP26 under the Pavilion, which featured eminent high level speakers from national and regional organizations, UN and IPCC representatives, ocean and climate experts, and youth leaders from around the world. The events, which were conducted as webinars, addressed science, finance, partnership and capacity building, public education, collaboration and coordination with a focus on strengthening ocean and climate action as well as securing a place for the ocean in the climate negotiations.

COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion Opening Event: Connecting All on Our Incredible Blue Planet. View.

High Level Event on Ocean & Finance: Blue Economy for Ocean Health. View.

Youth Event: Meet the Blue Expert. View.

Roundtable on the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) Ocean & Climate Change Dialogue Theme: Strengthening Cooperation and Collaboration Among Relevant UN Bodies in Tackling Ocean and Climate Change. View.

Ocean & Adaptation, Resilience, and Mitigation: Creating and Implementing the Enabling Conditions for Action Through Science, Capacity Building, and Other Cross-Cutting Approaches. View.

Recap of Youth Chat on the Virtual Ocean Pavilion Key Messages: How to be an Ocean-Climate Advocate? View.

Children and Young People’s Human Rights to a Healthy Ocean: Their Importance for Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation. View.

COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion Closing Event: Working Together for Our Incredible Blue Planet. View.


The Pavilion became the gateway to COP26 ocean-related events through the Ocean Events Tracker organized by the Ocean Conservancy. Attendees were invited to register their events through a Tracker Smartsheet Form. The entries became part of a calendar of COP26 ocean events accessible through the Virtual Ocean Pavilion and based on information gathered through the Tracker. There were 133 unique ocean-related events registered through the tracker.

Photo credit: Ben Jones / Ocean Image Bank


The 26 exhibition booths, a main attraction of the Pavilion which garnered over 5,000 total visits, were used by collaborating partners and sponsors to showcase their activities and resources on ocean and climate action. The booths provided access to information that attendees were able ‘take away’ in their virtual delegate bags as well as venues for informal meetings with experts and networking among exhibit hosts and attendees.

Photo credit: Ocean Image Bank


In addition to information resources provided through the booths, a collection of interviews and informational videos, ocean art, and climate stories from around the world were featured in the Treasure Trove, which contained key messages for the attendees to take away from the Pavilion.

A Scavenger Hunt allowed the attendees to test their ocean knowledge while exploring the COP26 Virtual Ocean Pavilion at the same time. A marine-themed photo booth added a fun attraction to the Pavilion.

Photo Credit: Jayne Jenkins / Ocean Image Bank


Coordinated by the Global Ocean Forum, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Ocean Policy Research Institute (OPRI) 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, in collaboration with many other partners from across the globe.


To help realize the ocean and climate change agenda through the Virtual Ocean Pavilion at COP27, the co-organizers are welcoming sponsors as well as additional partners. The design of the COP27 Virtual Ocean Pavilion will take into consideration the cascade of ocean and ocean-related events in 2022, the COP27 priorities, as well as the lessons learned in the development of the platform and feedback received from the survey of COP26 Pavilion attendees.


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 (
Kirsten Isensee, IOC-UNESCO (