UN chief declares ‘ocean emergency’ as world leaders meet in Lisbon

<span>Photo: Miguel A Lopes/EPA</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/TnYm6yPXpHLLgG7zawXZXg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MA–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/2gGOeBX4lF0EBF1KZbgjhw- -~B/aD0wO3c9MDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/db65e4759ed9bb60b5b087f8cf371d7d” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/TnYm6yPXpHLLgG7zawXZXg– /YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MA–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/2gGOeBX4lF0EBF1KZbgjhw–~B/aD0wO3c9MDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/db65e4759ed9bb60b5b087f8cf371d7d”/ ></div>
<p><figcaption class=Photo: Miguel A Lopes/EPA

The UN secretary-general has declared that the world is in the midst of an “ocean emergency” and urged governments to do more to restore ocean health.

Speaking at the opening of the UN ocean conference in Lisbon, Portugal, attended by world leaders and heads of state from 20 countries, António Guterres said: “Sadly, we have taken the ocean for granted and today we are facing what that I would call an ocean. emergency. We must change course.”

Sea level rise, ocean warming, ocean acidification and greenhouse gas concentrations reached record levels last year, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s 2021 State of the Global Climate report.

Low-lying nations and coastal cities face flooding, while pollution is creating vast coastal dead zones and overfishing is “crippling fish stocks,” Guterres said.

Marine pollution is increasing and marine species are declining, including sharks and rays, whose populations have been reduced by more than 70% in the last 50 years.

Almost 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged into the sea without treatment, while at least 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. “Without drastic action, plastic could outnumber all the fish in the ocean by 2050,” Guterres warned.

“We cannot have a healthy planet without a healthy ocean,” he said in his opening remarks.

Guterres, who is from Lisbon, was applauded as he began his speech in his native Portuguese, quoting one of the country’s best-known poets, Fernando Pessoa: “God wanted the Earth to be all one. That the sea unites, no longer separates.”

A cormorant sits on its nest surrounded by rubbish off the coast of Isabela Island in the Galapagos archipelago. Photograph: Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images

The secretary-general referred to positive news since the last UN ocean conference in 2017, including progress on a legally binding instrument to conserve and protect biodiversity in waters beyond national jurisdiction, part of the draft treaty. of the high seas of the UN, and the World Trade Organization last week. agreement to curb harmful fishing subsidies.

But he called on governments to step up their global health ambitions. “All of us must do much more,” he said, including more funding for scientific innovation. “A healthy and productive ocean is vital to our shared future,” Guterres said.

The theme of the conference is the critical need for marine science and technology to build ocean resilience. Guterres called for a “target of mapping 80% of the seabed by 2030”.

He made several recommendations, including sustainable management that could help the ocean produce six times more food and generate 40 times more renewable energy than it does today, and protect the oceans and people in coastal areas from the impacts of the climate crisis.

More than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their food security, while 120 million work directly in fisheries and aquaculture-related activities, the majority in small island developing states and least developed countries. However, SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 14 (conserve and sustainably use ocean seas and the marine environment for sustainable development) is the least funded of all the SDGs, Guterres said.

Related: UN ocean treaty is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to protect the high seas

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, co-chair of the UN ocean conference, told delegates that “the oceans are the least appreciated resource on our planet” and that human activity has put them under “great stress”.

“Mismanagement has reduced the natural ability of the ocean to restore itself,” he said. “I am amazed that we are putting such a critical resource at risk.”

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, president of Portugal and co-chair of the conference, said war and the pandemic should not be used as an excuse for inaction. “Oceans are central to the geopolitical balance of power,” he said. “We must make up for lost time and give hope a chance, once again, before it is too late.”

The draft declaration from the conference acknowledges the world’s collective failure to achieve SDG 14 and commits to reversing the health of the ocean, but does not explain how it will be achieved. It also makes reference to the need for financing for developing countries to help implement Marine Protected Areas.

The final draft of the political declaration is expected to be adopted at the end of the conference. Negotiations between nations on the key instrument to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030, the world ocean treaty, are expected to take place in New York in August.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.