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What Did the Ocean ISU Do at COP28?

Ocean ISU


At COP28 in Dubai, the Ocean Insight and Strategy Unit (Ocean ISU) continued its mission to advance evidence-based strategic ocean communication. Here’s what we got up to:

1. Speaking at the high-level opening of the Virtual Ocean Pavilion

It was an honour to be invited to speak at the high-level opening of the Virtual Ocean Pavilion on 30th November 2023. Now in its second year, this online platform aims to raise the profile of the ocean at COP, while also democratising access to events and conversations for those unable to participate in COP in person.

In the opening session, we spoke about aligning impactful communication to raise the voice of the ocean. Through the example of the OneOcean Flotilla we touched upon:

  • Aligned communications approaches to strengthen the ocean voice in the climate conversation
  • The importance of research and evidence in developing effective communications strategies
  • Making space for diversity of opinion on ocean issues, particularly with regard to emerging approaches to marine-based carbon dioxide removal.

You can read the full text of our opening presentation here.

2. Ocean-Climate Solutions Dialogue on strategic communication and ocean literacy at the OceanX and Ocean Decade Pavilion

On 5th December 2023, we convened a group of strategic communication and ocean literacy practitioners to discuss our approaches to addressing Challenge Ten of the Ocean Decade – changing humanity’s relationship with the ocean.

This closed room dialogue enabled us to do a deep dive into the challenges and obstacles we face in our work. We discussed our experiences working with different communities and audiences; what tools and resources are missing; and what we have learned about what makes for successful ocean communication. We are grateful to our partners for such rich participation in the dialogue.

Findings from this session will be used to inform our new Advancing Strategic Ocean Communication project. A report on the emerging themes from the dialogue is forthcoming.

3. Pulitzer Center Panel ‘What makes good ocean climate storytelling?’ in the Ocean Pavilion

COP28 Ocean Pavilion

On 11th December, Ocean ISU director, Natalie Hart, participated in a panel discussion entitled ‘The Ocean and Climate: What Makes Good Storytelling?’, which was the only communications-focused event at the Ocean Pavilion. The event was organised by our partners the Pulitzer Center, who this year launched the Ocean Reporting Network to support freelancers and staff journalists to pursue in-depth or investigative ocean stories. 

In this session, panellists discussed:

  • The importance of putting a human face on the ocean story
  • What research and evidence can tell us about how to communicate the ocean effectively
  • The complexities of telling ocean climate stories and the low public awareness baseline of the ocean’s role in mitigating the worst effects of the climate crisis

You can read more about the work of the inaugural Pulitzer Center Ocean Reporting Network, led by Jessica Aldred, here.

4. Interview Series: Advancing Strategic Ocean Communication

Throughout COP28, we conducted interviews with ocean, climate, and nature communicators on what makes good strategic communication. We talked to people about what they find does and doesn’t work, the resources they use, and what gaps they see in resources and support.

In January 2024, we will be launching a new project, informed by the findings from these interviews, entitled ‘Advancing Strategic Ocean Communication’.

Intended outcomes for the project include:

  1. An ocean-climate community that is equipped with guidance, skills and knowledge (from inside and outside the ocean sector) to advance its use of strategic communications to achieve ocean-climate impact;
  2. A funding community galvanised to value and invest in better communications practices;
  3. A shared theory of change framework recognised by funders and practitioners to collate evidence and assess the impact of communications and engagement investment on ocean health.

…leading to the more effective use of strategic communication to achieve positive ocean action across the whole of society.

You can see a slide deck with the project outline here.

If you are interested in getting involved or would like to hear more about the project, please email Ocean ISU director Natalie Hart