Oceans on the agenda as Xi meets Macron

China and France have pledged to increase cooperation on biodiversity and ocean protection during Chinese president Xi Jinping’s state visit to France this month.

Oceans and biodiversity were the subjects of one of four joint declarations issued, as Xi met France’s leader Emmanuel Macron. The high-level announcements cover a huge range of ocean topics: support and implementation of the international agreement for the protection of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (the BBNJ Agreement); financing restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems such as wetlands; environmental impact assessments for deep-sea mining; and combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The pair also pledged to work on addressing chemical and plastic pollution, and developing green shipping and the blue economy.

“China supports France in hosting the 2025 UN Ocean Conference, and welcomes partnerships between our national parks and nature reserves,” added Xi.

Government departments from the two countries signed 18 further cooperation agreements, three of which relate to ecology and the environment. These include work on green development and conservation. In addition, a cooperation plan between the two ecology ministries proposes they explore the development of pilot environmental projects and “strengthen coordination and cooperation on important multilateral environmental agendas”.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen cited the mitigation of climate change and protection of biodiversity, along with ocean governance, as examples of global challenges that need Europe needed to work with China. “Given the global weight of China, our engagement is key to ensure mutual respect, avoid misunderstanding and find joint solutions to global challenges,” she said in a statement ahead of her meeting with Macron and Xi.

China seeks to beat the heat with marine forecasting

As global ocean temperatures continue to break records, China is attempting to forecast the extent and intensity of heatwaves in its seas for the first time, according to China Environment News.

A forecast for marine heatwaves has been launched by the country’s National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center (NMEFC), designed to assist the government in responding to such events.

The ocean absorbs 90% of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. “Marine heatwaves” differ from the ocean’s long-term warming trends and the term usually refers to periods when water temperatures suddenly rise abnormally and high temperatures persist for days, or even months. Severe marine heatwaves can lead to massive die-offs of marine life, coral bleaching and the large-scale destruction of kelp forests.

Liying Wan, an expert from the NMEFC, told China Environment News that the forecasting tool was developed after analysing marine heatwaves that occurred between 1983 and 2020. The emergence, development and impacts of these heatwaves on marine ecology were also explored. According to Liying, “marine management departments and fisheries practitioners can use the forecast to adopt reasonable measures in a timely manner, and to mitigate economic losses as well as reduce damage to marine ecosystems.”