A New Declaration to Help Save our Oceans

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

Last week, world leaders adopted a landmark declaration at the United Nations’ Ocean Conference in Lisbon to scale up science-based and innovative actions and address the ocean emergency of habitat loss, ocean acidification and ecosystem degradation.

More than 150 countries gathered at the conference, co-hosted by the governments of Portugal and Kenya, agreed to take actions to strengthen, among other things, marine pollution, blue economies and marine protected areas.

Marine pollution

Marine pollution accounts for at least 85 percent of marine waste, and plastic litter is the chief pollutant. Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our ocean. If nothing is done about it, by 2040, the equivalent of 50 kg of plastic per meter of coastline worldwide is projected to flow into the ocean yearly.

The Lisbon declaration “Our ocean, our future, our responsibility”, called on governments to do more to prevent, reduce, and eliminate marine plastic litter – including single-use plastics and microplastics – by contributing to comprehensive life-cycle approaches, encouraging recycling and environmentally sound waste management.

The declaration welcomed the decision made at the fifth UN Environment Assembly held in Nairobi, Kenya, earlier this year to establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. Member States gavelled a historic resolution to forge the agreement by 2024.

Blue economies

It is estimated that by the year 2030, the world’s coastal populations will contribute three trillion dollars to the global economy in sectors as diverse as fisheries, tourism, as well as emerging green and blue economies such as renewable energy and marine biotechnology. Blue economies will be even more crucial to countries across Africa and developing island nations.

The declaration recognized the importance of building sustainable, resilient and inclusive blue economies. This starts with acknowledging that the ocean is fundamental to life on our planet and our future as it provides countless services, including supplying oxygen, contributing to food security, creating countless jobs, and acting as a carbon sink.

Photo-illustration: Unsplash (Veronica Reverse)

The declaration further affirmed that the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and the advancement of nature-based solutions are critical to ensuring a sustainable, inclusive and environmentally-resilient recovery from COVID-19, which has disproportionately hit developing nations.

Marine protected areas

Marine Protected Areas offer one of the best options for maintaining and restoring the health of the ocean by protecting species and ecosystems, engaging stakeholders in the planning and fair sharing of benefits and ensuring the long-term sustainable use of natural resources and tourism incomes.

Research shows that strong governance, in accordance with national legislation and international law, has the potential to influence human behaviors and reduce human-induced impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems.

The declaration acknowledged the need to establish greater, better-managed Marine Protected Areas. It noted the voluntary commitments by more than 100 Member States to conserve or protect at least 30 percent of the global ocean within Marine Protected Areas and other area-based conservation measures by 2030.

Indigenous Peoples, data, women and girls

Participating countries also agreed to take actions to strengthen, among other things, data collection; recognition of the role indigenous people play in sharing innovation and best practices; and participation of women and girls in the ocean-based economy. 

Now that the global effort to protect our ocean has a new beginning, as Leticia Carvalho, Principal Coordinator of the Marine and Freshwater Branch at UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says, the work that lies ahead should be “driven by science, technology, innovation and finance.”

Source: UNEP