Every time we breathe, we connect to the oceans. The oceans provide us with oxygen, food and sustenance. Additionally, it balances our climate by absorbing most of the heat trapped in the Earth system. Billions of humans, animals and plants depend on healthy oceans. However, the health of the oceans is in danger.
Rising carbon emissions are causing the oceans to acidify, weakening their ability to support life below and on land. Plastic waste is suffocating the oceans and, if we continue on the same path, by the year 2100, more than half of the planet’s marine species could be on the verge of extinction. Solutions exist to restore the health of the oceans, but they will require action by all of society, from world leaders to all of us.
There is no healthy planet without healthy oceans, and the health of the oceans is clearly in decline. Having said that, I want to stress that 2022 could be the year when we put an end to this deterioration.
The United Nations Ocean Conference, co-organized by the governments of Kenya and Portugal and taking place in Lisbon from June 27 to July 1
To defend this claim, 2022 is the International Year of Small-Scale Fisheries and Aquaculture, and aquaculture and small-scale fisheries are at the heart of our quest for sustainability. Likewise, it is very important to remember that last year the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development was launched, as well as the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration to support and advance achieving the goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. United Nations. We also have the commitment made at the 26th Glasgow Climate Conference that ocean issues should be part of the ongoing work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which makes us optimistic that solid progress will be made in addressing issues such as ocean warming and acidification. These advances will improve the health of the oceans while ensuring their unique ability to sequester carbon.
On the other hand, in addition to these positives and all the other affirmative ocean action meetings taking place this year, there are six international meetings that, taken together, can really slow the decline. One of these meetings was already held at the beginning of March in Nairobi: the 5th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, during which it was agreed by consensus to begin negotiations for a binding global treaty that will end plastic pollution. Currently, we dump eleven million tonnes of plastic into the oceans every year and this figure is expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050. However, with the proposed treaty, we can curb this intolerable pollution trend.
Second, in mid-June the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization will take place in Geneva. At this conference, after two decades of negotiations, the WTO has the power to ban fishing subsidies considered harmful. Every year, between $20 billion and $30 billion of public funds are spent on these subsidies, mostly to the delight of industrial fishing fleets, in an exercise that many describe as the greatest damage we can cause to ocean ecosystems. Do the right thing in Geneva and the health of the oceans will come alive.
Thirdly, the resumption of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biological Diversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction offers an opportunity to seal a solid and operational treaty for the governance of the high seas and thus safeguard one of the common goods the most important on the planet. If member states reach a consensus, we will have completed the work of the BBNJ in 2022.
There is no healthy planet without healthy oceans, and the health of the oceans is in a manifestly deteriorating state.
Fourth, the XV Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held at the end of the year in Kunming, is fulfilling its promise to set a new goal of protecting 30% of the planet by 2030. such a decision at this COP stage of the year would be a game-changer for marine protected areas and therefore for the health of the oceans.
In fifth place we have the United Nations Ocean Conference, jointly organized by the governments of Kenya and Portugal and to be held in Lisbon between June 27 and July 1, in which a battery of innovative solutions based on the science. These solutions will be put into practice with well-funded partnerships, representing the effective implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources.
Finally, at the UNFCCC COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh in November, we all need to deliver the ambition and political will for climate adaptation and the funding needed to bend the curve in the direction of security, equity and sustainability.
If we are to stop the decline in the health of the oceans this year, we must get it right at all six meetings, and while “we” primarily means Member States, it also means all of us. We cannot miss the unprecedented opportunities converging in 2022 for decisive action on the oceans.
Let’s all commit to redirecting our relationship with Nature towards a relationship of respect and balance. Let’s do it for our children and grandchildren so they can enjoy the wonderful life we want for them.
Peter Thompson is the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Diplomatic Envoy for the Oceans.