Greta — Climate youth leader Greta Thunberg made a surprise visit to the United Nations (UN) Climate Conference, just prior to attending a massive climate strike in downtown Madrid today. Ms. Thunberg told the demonstration that “We have been striking for over a year and still basically nothing has happened. The climate crisis is still being ignored by those in power. We cannot go on like this.”

She added, “I think we have achieved a lot. We have raised public awareness. We have created opinion. That is a big step in the right direction, but it’s nowhere near enough. Frankly, CO2 emissions are not falling, they are increasing. There is no victory, the only thing we want to see is real action, but real action has not been happening.”

Preparing for the high-level week — The first week, following the opening, belongs to negotiators, who typically work in smaller groups, working to hammer out agreements. Following the first week, they send up their recommendations to the high-level ministerial part of the Conference. More than 150 ministers and about eight heads of state are expected. The UN Secretary-General will return to the Conference mid-week.

Blue COP — This is the first COP where oceans are squarely on the agenda. Up until now, there has been a major focus on various land-based ecosystems such as forests and agricultural lands. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, said “Without a doubt, we are in big trouble.” No ecosystem can be healthy without a healthy ocean. He warned that in ten years, the world may have to make some serious decisions, invoking a word that is generally kept out of discussions – geoengineering.

Haydée Rodríguez Romero, Vice Minister for Water and Oceans of Costa Rica, said the Blue COP should raise the profile of the ocean and mobilize proper action based on sound scientific evidence, including ocean-based solutions. The High Ambition Coalition for people and nature was working to ensure that 30 per cent of land and ocean are protected by 2030.

Ocean contribution to the economy — The High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy produces a report that says collectively, it is estimated that ocean-based industries and activities contribute hundreds of millions of jobs and approximately US$2.5 trillion to the global economy each year, making it the world’s seventh-largest economy when compared with national gross domestic products. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report estimates that climate induced declines in ocean health will cost the global economy $428 billion per year by 2050 and $1.98 trillion per year by 2100.