FAPESP and the Sustainable Development Goals

FAPESP joins forces with France’s CNRS to bolster new International Panel on Ocean Sustainability

FAPESP joins forces with France’s CNRS to bolster new International Panel on Ocean Sustainability

Soon to be officially launched, IPOS is a coalition of 16 research institutions, research funders and universities. Its mission will be to bridge the science-policy divide and help protect the world’s ocean environment (photo: wirestock/Freepik)

Published on 06/26/2023

By Maria Fernanda Ziegler  |  Agência FAPESP – FAPESP, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and 14 research institutions around the world have joined forces to establish an international transdisciplinary panel of experts that will bridge the science-policy divide and help save the world’s ocean environment.

The coalition, formed in April this year at a meeting in Brussels (Belgium), expects the International Panel on Ocean Sustainability (IPOS) to be officially launched at the next United Nations Ocean Conference, scheduled for 2025 in Nice (France).

The ocean urgently needs saving, according to the Brussels Declaration issued by the first institutions to sign up for the initiative: “The ocean is an important source of income, energy and inspiration for many communities. However, its health is threatened due to the cumulative impacts of multiple human activities. We are now in the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and with the approaching UN Ocean Conference in 2025 there is an opportunity [and] an urgent need to identify and implement scientific solutions for sustainable Ocean use,” the declaration says.

“This is the UN Ocean Decade, advocating the sustainability of the ocean, which covers 70% of the planet’s surface. Brazil has a long coastline and some 165,000 square kilometers of territorial waters, which are mostly unexplored and unknown,” said Marco Antonio Zago, President of FAPESP. “To protect the ocean and intensify its sustainable use, related scientific research must expand significantly. FAPESP’s participation is therefore consistent with the decision to promote and stimulate programs of research on the ocean, and to strengthen international cooperation on this subject.”

The initiative is modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), albeit without reproducing its format or dynamics.

“The main difference is that IPOS won't be an intergovernmental panel. We want to avoid the formalities of government diplomacy in our discussions. Diplomatic time, as we well know, is different from the time required to make decisions on policy implementation, which are essentially grounded in existing scientific information. We want IPOS to optimize the use of the accumulated scientific knowledge about the ocean so as to create an agile and efficient political decision-making network,” said Fernando Menezes, FAPESP’s Chief Administrative Officer, also a participant in the Brussels meeting held to launch the coalition. 

It is no accident that the signatories took inspiration from IPCC and IPBES. “Our understanding of the ocean’s role in climate regulation began with one of the key scientific agendas, which is climate change. Similarly, the biodiversity agenda has sparked insights into the importance of marine biodiversity. The ocean is an equally important component of both agendas. However, other aspects are now emerging, such as the ocean’s economic sustainability, and so we need to plan how best to use the ocean. We must develop techniques or pathways to create wealth without adversely affecting the marine environment,” said Alexander Turra, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Oceanographic Institute (IO-USP) and head of the UNESCO Chair on Ocean Sustainability.

Besides the importance of the ocean to these agendas, it is also necessary to expand international collaboration in research on the marine environment. “It’s pointless to talk about climate change and not about the ocean, just as it’s incomplete to talk about biodiversity without including the ocean. The fact is that the ocean represents three-quarters of the planet. FAPESP’s participation in this coalition to save the ocean and promote international research cooperation is extremely important,” said Márcio de Castro Silva Filho, FAPESP’s Scientific Director.

According to Turra, IPOS provides an opportunity to create an independent process to evaluate and monitor relevant aspects of ocean sustainability and the transition to a sustainable ocean. “This is essential to having decision-making processes based on different knowledge systems, such as science and the knowledge of Indigenous and traditional communities,” he told Agência FAPESP.

Turra is also a member of the steering committee for the FAPESP Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (BIOTA-FAPESP). The time is indeed ripe for this coalition, he said. Although the IPCC and IPBES address aspects of how the ocean is influenced by climate change and biodiversity loss, neither body has the scope to address ocean sustainability.

“Among other things, IPOS will assess the current state of the ocean and devise strategies to reverse the ongoing degradation,” he said. “One of its aims will be to construct a strategic agenda for the ocean after 2030, the end-date for both the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-30” (the Ocean Decade).

Another of IPOS’s aims is to increase humanity’s knowledge of the ocean. “To arrive at the necessary level of reflection, we need to build scientific knowledge and the political articulation of our institutions for collaborative agendas. This will create the capacity to direct knowledge for political decision making with objectivity,” he said.


According to Menezes, FAPESP’s participation in the coalition is part of its growing internationalization. “The process is evident, in terms of both the internationalization of research and, above all, the international insertion of FAPESP as an institution. Participation in this coalition will certainly bear significant fruit,” he said.

USP and CNRS recently announced a plan to launch an International Research Center (IRC) early next year. This will be the fifth such unit established by CNRS, which already has similar partnerships with the Universities of Arizona and Chicago in the United States, Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and the University of Tokyo in Japan (read more at: agencia.fapesp.br/40937). 

FAPESP will support research conducted by the IRC, especially in ocean science. Important initiatives will be announced before the end of this year.

Besides CNRS and FAPESP, the initial members of the coalition are Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (Germany), Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB, Spain), European Academy of Sciences (EurASc, Brussels), French National Institute for Ocean Science (IFREMER), GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany), MARE (Portugal), Mercator Ocean International (France), Monaco Scientific Center (CSM), National Museum of Natural History (MNHN, Paris), the Ocean Institute of the Alliance Sorbonne University (France), University of Western Brittany (UBO, France), University of the Azores (UAc, Portugal), UNESCO Chair on Ocean Sustainability (IO-USP, Brazil), and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI, USA).


Source: https://agencia.fapesp.br/41736