Interview with Lisa Emelia Svensson – Ocean and climate, how to inform decision makers?

© N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

9 September 2015

During a stopover in Stockholm, the Tara project members – in particular, Romain Troublé, secretary general of Tara Expeditions  had the opportunity to speak with local political representatives. A foretaste of what awaits them at the 2015 Climate Conference to be held in Paris this winter. Among them, Lisa Emelia Svensson, Swedish Ambassador of the oceans. Interview with a committed woman.

Can you explain your role as an ambassador?

I work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as an ambassador for the oceans, I defend the Swedish perspectives on the protection of the oceans. I’m focusing on the challenges facing the ocean, but also on how to raise this debate to more a political level. We have the knowledge, publications, and information, but we still need to raise public awareness about these challenges! How do we make a link so policy makers can actually use the information and do something about it? In the context of the United Nations climate conference and the post-2015 agenda, we have one clear goal – the ocean. So now the important thing is: how do we implement this goal?

In order to complete this challenge at the end of the year, what relationship must there be between private initiatives such as Tara Expeditions and public or political initiatives? What is the role of these initiatives?

Tara Expeditions has two dimensions. You are a scientific boat and also a private foundation. From our perspective, science should be the foundation of all decisions because it informs us on what’s happening, and on this basis we have to make policy decisions. These strategic initiatives cannot be made or should not be made without knowing how to act. Of course, it’s always a challenge: when do we have enough scientific knowledge?

What does science tell us? Sometimes it shows how little we know about a subject – for example, the ocean. But we have to take this precautionary principle before making any decisions. And of course when it comes to politics, there are also many other variables to take into account, such as economics, as well as social and political decisions. So when working with science, policy interface is crucial. Tara Expeditions is a science-based organization, but also serves educational and informational purposes, as for example today’s seminar.

What are your expectations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21)? What are our chances of reaching a serious agreement?

Obviously we all hope to reach an agreement, and I think it’s important we all agree upon the legal instruments to implement. It is essential to raise public awareness about the ocean’s status – both as a regulator of climate but also regarding the impact of climate change on this ecosystem.

Why aren’t the oceans taken into account on the climate issue?

I think our awareness about the health of the oceans is 30 to 40 years behind our consciousness of climate change. Tara has been working on plastics for 5 years, meaning scientists have been studying plastic waste in the ocean for 5 years. But that is currently the extent of our knowledge on the subject, whereas for climate change, we have access to long-term measurements. So we know more about climate change and have thus been able to disseminate information on this subject for a longer time. We have detailed reports and algorithms on climate, and its evolution is foreseeable. In contrast, for the first time this year, we attended a seminar presenting an assessment report of the world ocean. We are currently working on this collective report in preparation for the upcoming United Nations conference. The final report will come in December.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Related articles:

- The Ocean, the climate and the science

- Interview with Romain Troublé: “Let’s give the Ocean a voice at the COP21″

- ITW with Etienne Bourgois: Tara, from the Arctic to the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris