© N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

Secretary General of Tara Expéditions and Ambassador of the Ocean’s call for Climate, Romain Troublé has joined the Tara-Ecopolaris mission in Greenland.

This was the opportunity to interview him about the future prospects for Tara Expeditions, as well as focus on the challenges linking ocean and climate, in view of the upcoming United Nations International Conference on Climate Change to be held in Paris in December 2015 (COP21).

How has Tara Expeditions evolved in recent years? Is Tara today the same as in the past?

11 years ago, the ship was in the same place, on the east coast of Greenland, with the same GREA (Research Group in Arctic ecology) scientists. We’ve come back to assess the evolution of bird colonies observed at that time.

In 11 years, Tara has come a long way: initially, we were a handful of people managing this project and the schooner went on short-term missions for 3 or 4 months. Since 2006, with the Arctic drift, expeditions have taken a new scientific dimension, the project has become structured and the team now numbers 12 people. We have developed new orientations, including education and political advocacy. A milestone was reached thanks to the Tara Oceans expedition which enabled our scientific partners to publish 30 articles, including 5 in the prestigious journal Science. It’s a tribute to the commitment of all stakeholders, including our sponsors, and to the collective effort provided over the last 6 years. Today, all of this transcends Tara. We are in the process of giving Tara Expeditions an international dimension.

What are the prospects for the years to come? What projects is the team working on?

In the short term, the next scientific expedition will be devoted to the study of the response of coral reefs to climate and environmental changes, in the Pacific Ocean and in Asia, between 2016 and 2018. In the longer term, to return to science conducted at the latitudes we are presently exploring, we plan on having Tara drift again in the Arctic ice, from 2019 to 2021. We are already working on this project with European scientists. We also have the ambition to build a laboratory to accompany this new Arctic drift. With Etienne Bourgois, President of Tara Expeditions, we are also thinking of raising funds to build another Tara during the next decade. Tara’s ambition is to perpetuate itself and go beyond the vision of its founders while keeping the human scale it has today. We want to remain committed to science in order to nurture reflection about global challenges, and help the public understand the changes taking place.

You are an ambassador of the Ocean’s Call for Climate. Can you explain what this entails?

About a year and a half ago, we gathered together a dozen organizations in an association called the Ocean & Climate Platform, in order to reflect on the special relationship between ocean and climate, in preparation for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21). This implies a strong mobilization of our team since Tara coordinates the project with a few other organizations.

Today, this platform unites 60 French and foreign members. Each member manages his own projects but everyone wanted to develop a common campaign personified by “the Ocean’s Call for Climate”. This call was launched on June 8, 2015 at UNESCO headquarters, and Tara Expeditions is going to echo its message until the negotiations. This is a call for signatures which will be handed over to personalities at the United Nations during the COP21 in December. We have already gathered more than 10,000 signatures in one month. I dream that each signer will have it signed by 10 friends or relatives, so we can reach 100,000 signatures by the end of summer…

Only 6 months until the opening of the COP21 in Paris. What exactly are the “Ocean and Climate” challenges?

The issue of climate change has been addressed for more than 20 years by United Nations multilateral forums. In all that time, the ocean has remained on the sidelines of negotiations. Yet it covers 70% of the surface of our planet and plays a leading role in the climate system. We often hear about the impact of global warming on the ocean, or on ecosystems. But we forget that the ocean plays a real role in the food chain, as well as in the production of oxygen we breathe each day. Scientists also point out that, every day, the ocean stores one third of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and has been doing this for millions of years. The ocean plays a major role! So yes, of course, it is necessary to mitigate global warming but to this purpose, more attention must be given to the health of the oceans. We must ensure that marine life, which provides us with so many services, can continue to do so tomorrow.

The objective of the Ocean & Climate Platform is simple: above all, it must support an ambitious agreement during the COP21. It also aims at explaining the role of the oceans in the climate system, and shedding light on issues that are often obscure and that no one really understands. We wish to give the Ocean a voice during the COP21, but also beyond it, so that future agreements will include the Ocean.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Related articles:

- Tara, member of the Ocean & Climate Platform

- Sign the Ocean Call for Climate!

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