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Relay4Nature Baton Arrives in Glasgow for Global Climate Conference COP26

1st November 2021
From left: UN Special Envoy for the Oceans, Peter Thomson; Vel Gnanendran, climate and environment director at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; and Richard Brisius, race chairman of The Ocean Race with Nature’s Baton, the symbol of Relay4Nature aboard the tall ship Glenn in Glasgow for COP26
From left: UN Special Envoy for the Oceans, Peter Thomson; Vel Gnanendran, climate and environment director at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; and Richard Brisius, race chairman of The Ocean Race with Nature’s Baton, the symbol of Relay4Nature aboard the tall ship Glenn in Glasgow for COP26 Credit: Marc Turner/The Ocean Race

Relay4Nature, an initiative by The Ocean Race and UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, is at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, COP26, to highlight the critical role the ocean plays in mitigating climate change and to call for world leaders to take urgent action to protect it.

The Relay4Nature baton, Nature’s Baton, was passed from the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson to Vel Gnanendran, climate and environment director at the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, on the deck of the iconic tall ship Glenlee on the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow on the first day of the world’s crucial climate change conference (Sunday 31 October).

The Ocean Race, together with Ambassador Thomson, created Relay4Nature earlier this year to help ensure that the ocean is central to global discussions affecting the planet’s future.

Nature’s Baton symbolises the fact that the world’s existential challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss are inseparably linked with the state of the ocean’s health.

‘The science tells us that we must protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. I think that is the very least we should be doing’

Receiving the baton on behalf of COP26’s landmark event, Vel Gnanendran said: “The ocean is critical to life. About three billion people in the world depend on the ocean. It is critical to livelihoods, biodiversity and saving our planet. The science tells us that we must protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. I think that is the very least we should be doing.

“I hope that we can see governments and non-governmental players all committing to take action to protect the oceans but not only taking the action but by putting the finance behind those actions.

“It is a real honour to receive Nature’s Baton on behalf on the UK COP26 Presidency and I really want to commend everyone involved in Nature’s Baton and the baton Relay for raising the profile of the ocean and galvanising actions around protecting it.”

Ambassador Thomson said that Nature’s Baton is giving the ocean a voice at crucial environmental conferences and is “part of an international effort to break down the silos that have often impaired the outcomes of these conferences. Relay4Nature is demonstrating connectivity, and underlining that our planetary problems and solutions all stem essentially from the same universal activities of humankind.”

Relay4Nature will feature throughout COP26, collecting and sharing messages from delegates about the action that world leaders need to take to protect the planet.

The Ocean Race and Ambassador Thomson will host a side event next Monday 8 November where, along with special guests, they will analyse the ocean’s role in the global negotiations so far.

The Relay4Nature initiative is supported by 11th Hour Racing, founding partner of the Race Sustainability Programme and premier partner of The Ocean Race.

‘The ocean may be a victim of the climate crisis, but it also holds the solutions. In fact the ocean is a true climate hero’

Richard Brisius, race chairman of The Ocean Race, said: “Climate change is taking a devastating toll on our blue planet. Seas are becoming warmer, more acidic and levels are higher, significantly impacting not just the species that live in them but humans, too.

“The ocean may be a victim of the climate crisis, but it also holds the solutions. In fact the ocean is a true climate hero. It provides half of the world’s oxygen, locks away a significant amount of carbon dioxide and absorbs heat, making it our most crucial ally in the fight against climate change.

“Through Relay4Nature we want to highlight that it is absolutely critical that the ocean has a seat at the negotiation table at COP26.”

COP26 takes place six years after the milestone Paris Agreement, which set out the critical emissions reduction targets the world needs to meet in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. From now until next Friday 12 November, leaders from across the world will attend the conference in Glasgow where it is expected that commitments will be made for more ambitious and decisive action.

Ahead of COP26, messages have been collected by Relay4Nature from a diverse mix of heads of state, ministers, business leaders, sailors and ocean lovers, including HSH Prince Albert of Monaco; the European Commissioner for Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičiusl and the UN High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, Nigel Topping.

Each baton holder is asked to share their greatest concern related to the future of the planet and an ask to world leaders on the vital action required. Their messages are carried within the baton.

As well as connecting the major challenges to the planet, Nature’s Baton links the world’s major environmental conferences. It played a significant role at IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille in September. And following COP26, will make its way to UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi in March 2022, the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming in April and UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in June.

The baton was also passed between sailing teams during the inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe earlier this year. It reached Glasgow following a six-day cycling relay from Southampton, on England’s south coast, to Scotland, organised by GAC Pindar, official logistics provider of The Ocean Race 2022-23, with support from Volvo Cars, premier partner of the race, who supplied two hybrid support vehicles for the relay.

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The Coastal Notes category covers a broad range of stories, events and developments that have an impact on Ireland's coastal regions and communities, whose lives and livelihoods are directly linked with the sea and Ireland's coastal waters.

Topics covered in Coastal Notes can be as varied as the rare finding of sea-life creatures, an historic shipwreck with secrets to tell, or even a trawler's net caught hauling much more than just fish.

Other angles focusing the attention of Coastal Notes are Ireland's maritime museums, which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of our nautical heritage, and those who harvest the sea using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety pose an issue, plying their trade along the rugged wild western seaboard.

Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied as the environment they come from, and which shape people's interaction with the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

Marine Wildlife

One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with Marine Wildlife. It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. And as boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify, even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat. Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse, it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to our location in the North Atlantic, there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe. From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals, the Marine Wildlife category documents the most interesting accounts around our shores. And we're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and video clips, too!

Also valuable is the unique perspective of all those who go afloat, from coastal sailing to sea angling to inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing, as what they encounter can be of great importance to organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). Thanks to their work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. But as impressive as the list is, the experts believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves, keep a sharp look out!

Weather

As an island in the North Atlantic, Ireland's fate is decided by Weather more so than many other European countries. When storm-force winds race across the Irish Sea, ferry and shipping services are cut off, disrupting our economy. When swollen waves crash on our shores, communities are flooded and fishermen brace for impact - both to their vessels and to their livelihoods.

Keeping abreast of the weather, therefore, is as important to leisure cruisers and fishing crews alike - for whom a small craft warning can mean the difference between life and death - as it is to the communities lining the coast, where timely weather alerts can help protect homes and lives.

Weather affects us all, and Afloat.ie will keep you informed on the hows and the whys.

Marine Science

Perhaps it's the work of the Irish research vessels RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of Marine Science for the future growth of Ireland's emerging 'blue economy'.

From marine research to development and sustainable management, Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. Whether it's Wavebob ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration, the Marine Science category documents the work of Irish marine scientists and researchers and how they have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

Power From The Sea

The message from the experts is clear: offshore wind and wave energy is the future. And as Ireland looks towards the potential of the renewable energy sector, generating Power From The Sea will become a greater priority in the State's 'blue growth' strategy.

Developments and activities in existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector, and those of the energy exploration industry, point to the future of energy requirements for the whole world, not just in Ireland. And that's not to mention the supplementary industries that sea power projects can support in coastal communities.

Irish ports are already in a good position to capitalise on investments in offshore renewable energy services. And Power From The Sea can even be good for marine wildlife if done properly.

Aside from the green sector, our coastal waters also hold a wealth of oil and gas resources that numerous prospectors are hoping to exploit, even if people in coastal and island areas are as yet unsure of the potential benefits or pitfalls for their communities.

Changing Ocean Climate

Our ocean and climate are inextricably linked - the ocean plays a crucial role in the global climate system in a number of ways. These include absorbing excess heat from the atmosphere and absorbing 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity. But our marine ecosystems are coming under increasing pressure due to climate change.

The Marine Institute, with its national and international partners, works to observe and understand how our ocean is changing and analyses, models and projects the impacts of our changing oceans. Advice and forecasting projections of our changing oceans and climate are essential to create effective policies and management decisions to safeguard our ocean.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, said, “Our ocean is fundamental to life on earth and affects so many facets of our everyday activities. One of the greatest challenges we face as a society is that of our changing climate. The strong international collaborations that the Marine Institute has built up over decades facilitates a shared focusing on our changing ocean climate and developing new and enhanced ways of monitoring it and tracking changes over time.

“Our knowledge and services help us to observe these patterns of change and identify the steps to safeguard our marine ecosystems for future generations.”

The Marine Institute’s annual ocean climate research survey, which has been running since 2004, facilitates long term monitoring of the deep water environment to the west of Ireland. This repeat survey, which takes place on board RV Celtic Explorer, enables scientists to establish baseline oceanic conditions in Irish waters that can be used as a benchmark for future changes.

Scientists collect data on temperature, salinity, water currents, oxygen and carbon dioxide in the Atlantic Ocean. This high quality oceanographic data contributes to the Atlantic Ocean Observing System. Physical oceanographic data from the survey is submitted to the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) and, in addition, the survey contributes to national research such as the VOCAB ocean acidification and biogeochemistry project, the ‘Clean Atlantic’ project on marine litter and the A4 marine climate change project.

Dr Caroline Cusack, who co-ordinates scientific activities on board the RV Celtic Explorer for the annual survey, said, “The generation of long-term series to monitor ocean climate is vital to allow us understand the likely impact of future changes in ocean climate on ecosystems and other marine resources.”

Other activities during the survey in 2019 included the deployment of oceanographic gliders, two Argo floats (Ireland’s contribution to EuroArgo) and four surface drifters (Interreg Atlantic Area Clean Atlantic project). The new Argo floats have the capacity to measure dissolved ocean and biogeochemical parameters from the ocean surface down to a depth of 2,000 metres continuously for up to four years, providing important information as to the health of our oceans.

During the 2019 survey, the RV Celtic Explorer retrieved a string of oceanographic sensors from the deep ocean at an adjacent subsurface moored station and deployed a replacement M6 weather buoy, as part of the Irish Marine Data Buoy Observation Network (IMDBON).

Funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the IMDBON is managed by the Marine Institute in collaboration with Met Éireann and is designed to improve weather forecasts and safety at sea around Ireland. The data buoys have instruments which collect weather and ocean data including wind speed and direction, pressure, air and sea surface temperature and wave statistics. This data provides vital information for weather forecasts, shipping bulletins, gale and swell warnings as well as data for general public information and research.

“It is only in the last 20 years, meteorologists and climatologists have really began to understood the pivotal role the ocean plays in determining our climate and weather,” said Evelyn Cusack, Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann. “The real-time information provided by the Irish data buoy network is particularly important for our mariners and rescue services. The M6 data buoy in the Atlantic provides vital information on swell waves generated by Atlantic storms. Even though the weather and winds may be calm around our shores, there could be some very high swells coming in from Atlantic storms.”

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