The UN Ocean Conference is a key step in restoring the health of the oceans

File image courtesy of Ocean Cleanup Posted on June 26, 2022 at 3:50 p.m. by China Ocean Dialogue [By Peter Thomson] With every

File image courtesy of Ocean Cleanup

Posted on June 26, 2022 at 3:50 p.m. by

China Ocean Dialogue

[By Peter Thomson]

With every breath we take, we are connected to the ocean. Planet-defining blue covers more than 70% of Earth’s surface, providing half of its oxygen, stabilizing our global climate and weather system, and providing food and livelihoods for billions of people.

A healthy ocean is essential to all life on Earth, and yet, due to the conscious and involuntary activities of humanity, the health of the ocean is measurably declining.

Overfishing continues to deplete precious marine resources and jeopardize sustainable small-scale fishing. Excessive anthropogenic carbon emissions are warming the ocean, causing coral death, raising sea levels and making the ocean more acidic, weakening its ability to sustain life. Plastic and chemical pollution permeates the ocean, endangering many marine species.

There can be no healthy planet without a healthy ocean. The good news is that, under our watch, we can take the necessary steps to halt the decline in ocean health. In 2022, we have significant opportunities to take bold and meaningful steps to put our ocean on the path to recovery. Solutions exist to restore the health of the oceans, but they will require action from all of us, from all sectors of industry and all walks of life, from world leaders to CEOs, and from scientists to citizens. .

In February 2022, we saw world leaders gathered at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi commit to crafting a legally binding global treaty to tackle the pernicious problem of plastic pollution. This month in Geneva, members of the World Trade Organization finally reached an agreement targeting the distorted behavior of harmful fishing subsidies. Negotiations to conclude a robust and functioning high seas treaty are expected to conclude later this year, while the Convention on Biological Diversity conference, also to be held later this year, promises a new goal to to protect 30% of the planet in 2030. And then there is the next United Nations gathering on climate change, COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh in November, which puts more emphasis than ever on the ocean in as an essential ally in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

The ongoing International Year of Small-Scale Fisheries and Aquaculture, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration also remain key elements to support and make advancing the achievement of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Next on the global agenda, we have the United Nations Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the governments of Kenya and Portugal, in Lisbon, June 27-July 1. The conference is organized in support of SDG14, the UN Sustainable Development Goal to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources. I strongly believe that SDG14 and the continued development of a sustainable blue economy around the world is crucial for the future of humanity on this planet.

I am convinced that we will see the launch in Lisbon of a large fleet of innovative science-based solutions. These solutions will be implemented through well-funded partnerships, which will propel the effective implementation of SDG14. I urge each participant to bring the best of their ideas and resources to Lisbon. We need everyone on deck.

The UN Ocean Conference will focus on the major challenges and opportunities facing the oceans today. The program includes plenary meetings, a series of interactive dialogues and a rich series of side events complementing the main programme. Sessions will cover topics ranging from building sustainable ocean economies to addressing ocean acidification, deoxygenation and warming; and to make fishing sustainable and equitable for small-scale artisanal fishers, to the conservation and restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems.

The conference will result in the adoption of a political declaration on “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility” which has already received the support of all UN Member States. All of this will be complemented by a range of over 1,700 voluntary ocean commitments from around the world – a range of ocean actions covering all SDG14 targets, submitted online by a wide range of stakeholders. All are invited to visit the United Nations Ocean Conference website to submit a voluntary pledge and be part of the momentum for progress.

If we are to reverse the decline in ocean health this year, we must not waste the unprecedented opportunities presented by the confluence of 2022 moments for decisive ocean action. And when I say “we”, I am referring not only to the leaders of UN member states, but also, ultimately, to each and every one of us. We, our children and grandchildren, are all citizens of Planet Ocean, and it is our responsibility to do the work necessary to ensure the health and prosperity of the ocean on which the future of humanity depends.

Ambassador Peter Thomson is the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Oceans and Co-Chair of Friends of Ocean Action.

This article appears courtesy of China Dialogue Ocean and can be found in its original form here.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.