The planet faces the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, Secretary-General António Guterres said Friday at the One Ocean Summit, warning that “the ocean bears much of the burden”.
As the ocean serves as a giant carbon and heat sink, it is warming and acidifying, causing its ecosystems to suffer.
“Polar ice is melting and global weather patterns are changing,” the UN chief said in his video message to the conference, which is taking place this week in the coastal city of Brest in northern France.
Communities that depend on the ocean are also suffering, he added: “More than three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.”
He painted a grim picture of declining marine species; dying coral reefs; coastal ecosystems transformed into “vast dead zones” as they serve as dumping grounds for sewage; and nutrients and seas choked with plastic waste.
In addition, fish stocks are threatened by excessive and destructive fishing practices, as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
“We need to change course,” stressed the Secretary-General.
Obeying the law
40 years have passed since the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. “The importance of legal certainty in the ocean is paramount,” Mr. Guterres said.
He said the second UN Ocean Conference, to be held in Lisbon from June 27 to July 1 this year, is “an opportunity to cement the role of the ocean” in global efforts to achieve the goals. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The UN chief stressed that intensified efforts must be made to protect the ocean, saying a “sustainable blue economy can spur economic progress and job creation”, while protecting the climate.
“We need more and better partnerships to tackle land-based sources of marine pollution…an urgency in deploying offshore renewables, which can provide clean energy and jobs, and…[less] fossil fuels in the ocean economy,” he said.
Mr Guterres hailed the “encouraging steps” taken by some countries, including France, to end single-use plastics and urged others to follow suit.
With around 90% of world trade transported by sea, he said shipping accounts for nearly 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“The shipping sector must contribute to the necessary 45% reduction in emissions needed by 2030 and to zero emissions by 2050, in order to maintain our hopes of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the UN chief said. .
A breakthrough in adaptation and resilience for coastal communities whose lives, homes and livelihoods are under threat is also imperative.
“We need to capitalize on the opportunities that nature-based solutions, such as mangroves and seagrass beds, provide,” he added.
viable ocean economy
To promote a sustainable ocean economy, the Secretary-General stressed the need for global partnerships and investment as well as increased support for ocean science “so that our actions are based on knowledge and understanding of the ocean”.
“Too much remains unmapped, unobserved and unexplored,” he said.
Throughout the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, Mr. Guterres encouraged concerned citizens around the world to “keep our collective promise of a healthy blue planet for future generations”.