During Tara’s stopover in Miami – last stop before sailing the Pacific Ocean – Francoise Gaill, Emeritus research director at the CNRS, scientific coordinator of the Ocean &Climate Platform, and advisor at the CNRS Institute of Ecology and Environment, explains the involvement of the Tara Expeditions Foundation in a series of scientific lectures organized in partnership between France and the United States, entitled FACT-O (French American Climate Talks on Ocean).
What is FACT-O exactly?
FACT-O is a series of public conferences planned to take place in the United States and Canada during which renowned French and American scientists, representatives of civil society, NGOs, political figures, journalists and entrepreneurs will talk about the oceans and the problems they are confronting.
How did this program emerge between the 2 countries?
Before the 2015 Paris Climate conference, Laurent Fabius, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, asked French Embassies to draw attention to the major issues on climate change. The French Embassy in Washington D.C. has the most important scientific department and initiated discussions with the United States and Canada – the French-American Climate TalkS (FACTs).
The Embassy followed the COP21 very closely, even in negotiating spaces, and was impressed by the strong representation of the Ocean. For the first time, the Ocean was mentioned everywhere. This wasn’t at all expected in Paris! Laurent Fabius, who was present at the Ocean’s Call for Climate #OceanForClimate, launched by the Ocean & Climate Platform at UNESCO on 8 June 2015, was already aware how important the Ocean is. He had even anticipated possible follow-up over the next 2 years.
Ocean and Climate Platform at the Tara Pavilion during the COP21 © Tara Expeditions Foundation
When did you start working on these conferences?
I went to the United States at the invitation of the French Embassy in Washington D.C. to meet with the main organizations that had previously collaborated with the Embassy on Ocean and Climate issues. I was introduced to scientists from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Maryland. At that time, the first FACT-O wasn’t planned yet. Then, the Embassy learned about Tara’s stopover in Miami.
Shortly afterwards, I met again with the Embassy members in New York for the signing of the Paris Agreement. I invited the official responsible of this initiative to attend an Ocean session prior to the signing. Due to the importance of ocean and climate issues and the upcoming stopover of Tara in Miami, we decided Tara’s arrival would be a remarkable occasion for the opening of the FACT-O project. This was the genesis of this series of talks that will last 2 years, with a minimum of 6 or 7 meetings.
What is the role of these talks?
The goal of FACT-O is to set up a Franco-American scientific research program, probably in the form of scholarships for young scientists to facilitate exchanges between the 2 countries. This will highlight the results from Tara’s expeditions and arouse interest from various universities to work with the Tara Expeditions Foundation. It will also show the scale of everything Tara can accomplish with new tools, new approaches etc. This is a great opportunity!
Tara sailing to Miami for the first stopover of the Tara Pacific expedition © Maéva Bardy / Tara Expeditions Foundation
Tara Pacific, is also a way for the Tara Expeditions Foundation to assert its expertise
On her way to Miami, Tara will pursue and extend the sampling work begun during the Tara Oceans expedition. I’m confident that interesting new results will come out of Tara Pacific because this expedition will provide: 1) a more accurate assessment of the carbon pump from a biological point of view and 2) information on how oceanic carbon is renewed via thermohaline circulation. This is Gaby Gorski’s field of expertise. I’m very confident that many personalities will be present in Miami, because Tara is and will remain at the forefront of research and innovation.
Interview by Dino Di Meo