Catherine Chabaud : “A healthy ocean is essential for maintaining the equilibrium of the climate”.

© F.Terlin

First woman to successfully complete a solo round-the-world voyage in 1997, Catherine Chabaud has always been dedicated to the sea, first as a sailor, then through her commitments.

Journalist, member of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ESEC), president of the organization “Innovations Bleues”, Catherine wishes, above all, to promote existing solutions to reduce the impact of human activities on marine ecosystems. Ambassador of the Ocean & Climate Platform, she explains this initiative and the challenges of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21).

Catherine Chabaud

1/ As ambassador of the Ocean & Climate platform, can you tell us what this platform is?
This initiative was taken by several stakeholders who share a connection with the sea. They all know that a healthy ocean is crucial to climate balance, and they were all aware that the ocean is not taken into account during climate negotiations. This mutual observation is what motivated the alliance called the Ocean & Climate Platform.

The Platform now has a wider reach than the previous initiatives. Its founding members were entities that had already gathered around joint actions dedicated to the oceans, for example during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) or the conference on the governance of the High Seas. Beginning with about ten organizations or foundations, including Tara Expeditions,  the Platform now brings together more than 50 entities. The UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) is one of the founding members of this Platform.

2/ Can you explain the purpose of the Ocean & Climate Platform?
The Platform core is a scientific committee composed of some of the best-known French oceanographers and biologists. International laboratories that share their observations and vision now wish to join them. Members have compiled a 70-page booklet on certain scientific subjects. A second group, dedicated to the “Dissemination of Knowledge,” conveys scientific information to the widest audience possible. This group is in charge of drafting educational worksheets. Finally, a third group called “Advocacy”, reflects on our plan of communication. Discussions  currently being conducted by this group, and more generally within the Platform, will determine the message presented at the COP21.

We will launch a first Appeal on June 8th during “World Ocean Day” at Unesco headquarters. The intended message is this: “Take into account the role of the oceans in climate balance. A healthy ocean means a protected climate. Know that whatever contributes to healthier oceans will also help develop solutions for responding to climate threats.” Our plea will probably deal with the need for marine stakeholders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for development of knowledge about the oceans. We are currently reflecting on an advocacy plan addressed to the general public, as well as decision-makers and negotiators.

3/ In your opinion, why are the oceans missing from the climate negotiations?
The main reason is an overall lack of knowledge about the oceans, and also the lack of awareness that oceans represent the Earth’s future. The oceans aren’t taken into account in international issues, not even in national ones, because not much is known  about oceans. People turn their back on the sea! It’s often said that less is known about oceans than about the moon, even though they represent 71% of our planet’s surface. Even people who are interested in the oceans don’t know them well, due to a lack of resources. Politicians don’t know the oceans, don’t really understand their size and impact on marine biodiversity and climate balance, nor their role as an amazing reservoir of energy. We only know 5% of the oceans and with every scientific discovery, such as the major results published by Tara Oceans last week, we take measure of how much the oceans will provide us in the future, in terms of geological resources, feeding the planet, and also manufacturing medicines.

4/ You have undertaken a rather special “Tour de France”. Can you tell us more about it?
During our “Tour de France for the climate” we wish to take very concrete actions in coastal regions. This initiative has a twofold aim: first, acknowledge the value of already implemented actions and then engage the coastal territories to carry out new solutions. These areas are not only the first impacted by global warming, notably by rising sea levels, but also because 80% of the population will live on this coastal fringe in the years to come.

During this Tour de France, we are meeting elected officials and making videos about existing solutions. Some territorial authorities have implemented heat exchangers using sea water to heat or cool buildings, or waste water treatment plants that release clean water, therefore preserving the marine ecosystem.

As an ambassador and member of the Ocean & Climate Platform, I also take the opportunity offered by this Tour de France to disseminate the educational worksheets, discuss the relationship between Ocean and Climate, as well as distribute Ocean and Climate flags.

5/ What personal message would you like to address to the COP21 decision-makers and negotiators?
We have to develop a more exhaustive view on climate issues, not limited to the  question of energy. It is essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it is equally crucial to implement solutions that will allow terrestrial and marine ecosystems to continue playing an active role in the climate balance. We have to take into account that every ecosystem is part of the solution – marine ecosystems as much as terrestrial ones. We also need to provide the means to achieve a more complete knowledge of the oceans and a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on the oceans. I believe, and this is a very personal opinion, that climate negotiations should also include the development of waste water treatment plants. All around the world, notably in the Mediterranean basin, we cope with a tragic lack of treatment plants that lead to the extinction of coastal ecosystems. This not only impacts biodiversity and fishery resources, but also the climate. We must therefore expand the range of our objectives.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Related articles:

- Tara, member of the Ocean & Climate Platform
- Read the article “The Ocean, the Climate and the Science”
- Climate negociations: challenges for 2015