Policy directives, at both the EU and the International level, drive requirements for ocean data and information that respond to society’s needs for ocean data and information. The EU also works directly with countries bordering the Atlantic to focus and coordinate efforts on the Atlantic Ocean observing system.

  1. European drivers for ocean data 
  2. Atlantic Ocean drivers for ocean data
  3. International drivers for ocean data

1. European Drivers for Ocean Data and Information

The EU is a global leader in international ocean governance, and the EU framework that governs our oceans and seas is founded on strategies, directives and programmes that actively contribute to the improvement of the global ocean observing system and international ocean governance beyond Europe. These include:

The EU Green Deal, which seeks to boost the efficient use of resources to a clean circular economy, restore biodiversity, and make the EU climate-neutral by 2050. The health and resilience of our seas and oceans play a primordial role in achieving the objectives of the Green Deal.

With a 2030 target, the EU Mission “Restore our Ocean and Waters” aims to protect and restore the health of our ocean and waters through research and innovation, citizen engagement and blue investments. The Mission’s new approach will address the ocean and waters as one and play a key role in achieving climate neutrality and restoring nature.

Cross-cutting enabling actions will support this objective, in particular broad public mobilisation and engagement and a digital ocean and water knowledge system, known as Digital Twin of Ocean.

The EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which is a comprehensive, ambitious and long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems, including the oceans and coastal areas

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the environmental pillar of the Maritime Affaires Policy, which seeks to provide a more coherent and holistic approach to marine and maritime issues, with increased coordination between different policy areas and actors.

The EU Arctic Policy, which focuses on advancing international cooperation in responding to the impacts of climate change and on promoting and contributing to sustainable development in the region.

The Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, which works across EU borders and sectors to ensure human activities at sea take place in an efficient, safe and sustainable way.

The EU’s action on International Ocean Governance, which was established in 2016 by the European Commission and the EU’s High Representative, and proposed 50 actions for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans in Europe and around the world. The Commission established the EU International Ocean Governance Forum in support of its ocean governance agenda.

EU Regional Sea Conventions (UNEP-MAP, OSPAR, HELCOM) are cooperation structures aiming to protect the marine environment and bring together EU Member States and neighbouring countries that share maritime space and resources.

Working hand in hand with the EU Green Deal, is the EU Digital Strategy, which aims to make the digital technology transformation work for people and businesses while helping to achieve a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. Part of the European Commission’s Green Deal and Digital Package commitments is to develop a very high precision digital interactive model of the Earth (Destination Earth initiative). This includes the development of the Digital Twin Ocean that will build on the integration of existing EU leading-edge capacities in ocean observation, data infrastructures and modelling and forecasting services using innovative IT technology.

2. Atlantic Ocean Drivers for Ocean Data and Information

The European Commission’s Atlantic Strategy and Action Plan, together with the All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AAORA) are the main drivers for data and information related to the Atlantic Ocean.

The European Commission, through its Atlantic Strategy and Action Plan (updated in July 2020), is committed to unlocking the potential of Blue Economy in the Atlantic area while preserving marine ecosystems and contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation. The new Action Plan’s aims are in line with the global commitments for sustainable development and are fully integrated in the European Commission’s political priorities for 2019 – 2024, notably a European Green Deal, an Economy that works for people and a stronger Europe in the world.

The All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AAORA) has been established to enhance marine research and innovation cooperation across the Atlantic Ocean, from pole to pole. AAORA aims to advance a shared vision of an Atlantic Ocean that is healthy, resilient, safe, productive, understood and treasured. Through a number of international projects, it supports the implementation of the Galway and Belem Statements on Atlantic Research and Innovation Cooperation, which the European Union signed respectively in 2013 with Canada and the USA, and in 2107 with Brazil and South Africa, as well as the bilateral agreements that the European Commission signed with Argentina, Cabo Verde and Morocco.

3. International Drivers for Ocean Data and Information

The international framework governing the ocean observing system is designed to respond to policy drivers at the intergovernmental and international level, and includes UN and ministerial-level agreements, conventions, and global scientific partnerships. Incorporating the needs for ocean data and information highlighted in international policy directives, the European Commission, EU Member States and their scientific expert groups work together to assess ocean knowledge and gaps in the ocean observing system. They also provide regular updates on the status of the observing system’s implementation to governments through these policy actions. The EU Framework is aligned with and contributes actively to these international policy instruments, and engages directly in the development of the global ocean observing system and governance through the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Global Earth Observation Partnership (GEO).

The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development provides a common framework to ensure that ocean science can fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage the Oceans and more particularly to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular, SDG 14 ‘to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources’. The EU made a positive and constructive contribution to the development of the 2030 Agenda and is committed to implementing the SDGs in all EU policies and encourages EU countries in doing the same at a national level.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was adopted in 1982. It lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world’s oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources. It embodies in one instrument traditional rules for the uses of the oceans and at the same time introduces new legal concepts and regimes and addresses new concerns. The Convention also provides the framework for further development of specific areas of the law of the sea.

In March 2023 at the Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), the United Nations General Assembly agreed on an international legally binding instrument “the BBNJ Treaty” under the UNCLOS framework on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Treaty”, also known as the “Treaty of the High Seas”, is an international agreement, which sets out to achieve e a more holistic management of high seas activities, which should better balance the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and its Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advise (SBSTA), which works to ensure global commitments to the implementation of systematic observations through the Global Climate and Global Ocean Observing Systems in the context of the Paris Agreement. Within this framework, the UNFCCC also oversees commitments to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Climate Research Programme.

United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity aims to preserve and improve marine and terrestrial biodiversity essential for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment.

Our Oceans Conferences bring together leaders from governments, businesses, civil society and research institutions to share their experience, identify solutions and commit to action for a clean, healthy and productive ocean. The “commit to action” element is the centrepiece of the event, and big-budget pledges by governments, companies and civil-society organisations have become a hallmark of the conference.

The SAMOA Pathway was developed as the outcome of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS Conference) held on 1-4 September 2014 in Apia, Samoa. The Conference, with the overarching theme “The sustainable development of Small Island developing States through genuine and durable partnerships“, played a significant role in identifying SIDS priorities that must be considered in the formulation of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction works hand in hand with the UN’s 2030 Agenda, is the roadmap for how we make our communities safer and more resilient to disasters. It supports the   goal   of   conserving  and  sustainably  using  the  oceans,  seas  and  marine  resources  for  sustainable  development  through  its  focus  on  environment,  observing  systems  and  the  particular  attention given to small island developing States