UN: Climate Disruption, Biodiversity, Pollution

“The planet is facing a triple crisis — climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution,” the United Nations Secretary-General said, adding that “we need the international community to intensify efforts to protect the ocean.”

Speaking at the recent One Ocean Summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “The ocean shoulders much of the burden. It serves as a giant carbon and heat sink. As a result, the ocean is growing warmer and more acidic, polar ice is melting and global weather patterns are changing. Ocean ecosystems are suffering. So, too, are the communities who rely on them. More than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. The number of marine species is dropping. Coral reefs are dying.

“Coastal ecosystems have become dumping grounds for sewage and nutrients, creating vast dead zones. Plastic waste is choking the seas. Overfishing, destructive fishing practices and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are threating fish stocks. We must change tack.

“This year, we celebrate 40 years since the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The importance of legal certainty in the ocean is paramount. The second United Nations Ocean Conference, in Lisbon in June, is an opportunity to cement the role of the ocean in global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“A sustainable blue economy can drive economic progress and job creation while protecting the ocean and climate. We need the international community to intensify efforts to protect the ocean. I welcome recent announcements — including the Galapagos Marine Reserve announced by Ecuador — establishing significant new marine protected areas. We must reach our global objective to protect 30 per cent of the world’s ocean by 2030.

“We need more, and more effective, partnerships to address land-based sources of marine pollution. It is time to end single-use plastics, and I welcome the encouraging steps taken by some countries — including France. We need much more urgency in the deployment of offshore renewable energy, which can provide clean power and employment. And we need to reduce the use of fossil fuels in the ocean economy.

“With some 90 per cent of world trade transported by sea, the shipping sector accounts for nearly 3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The shipping sector needs to contribute to the necessary 45 per cent cut in emissions needed by 2030, and zero emissions by 2050, in the effort to keep alive our hopes of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“We also need a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience for coastal communities whose lives, homes and livelihoods are at risk. We must capitalize on the opportunities that nature-based solutions — such as mangroves and seagrasses — provide. To promote a sustainable ocean economy, we need global partnerships and investment. And we need to increase support to ocean science, so our actions are based on knowledge and understanding of the ocean.

“Too much remains unmapped, unobserved and unexplored. In this United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, let us deliver on our collective promise of a healthy blue planet for future generations.”