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RIO+20 The Future We Want

RIO+20 the future we want

UN report finds ocean degradation expedited by market and policy failures


Secretary General and General Assembly President

An aerial view of Marovo Lagoon in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands.

14 December 2012 – Better market and policy instruments can help stop and reverse the rapid degradation of the world’s oceans due to poor management that is costing the world up to $200 billion dollars per year, according to a new report issued by the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility.

The report, Catalysing Ocean Finance, reviews how decision-makers throughout the world have designed and implemented a wide array of instru¬ments to identify and remove market and policy fail¬ures that have contributed to ocean degradation. These instruments have helped governments put in place clear incentives to all market players to restore and protect coasts and oceans and have proven highly effective at promoting science-based, long-term integrated plan¬ning and barrier removal to transform markets and create sustainable productive use patterns of coastal and ocean resources over the past 20 years.

Marine and coastal resources are estimated to directly provide at least $3 trillion annually in economic goods and services plus an estimated $20.9 trillion per year in non-market ecosys¬tem services. But coasts and oceans are exposed to increasing threats such as pollu¬tion, overfishing, introduced species, habitat and species loss, and poorly planned and managed coastal infrastruc¬ture development.

Speaking at the launch of a new UN Development Programme (UNDP) report held in Washington, D.C, Andrew Hudson, the head of UNDP’s Water & Ocean Governance Programme and UN-Oceans Coordinator, noted that continuing ocean degradation threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, primarily in the world’s least developed countries.

"Oceans are an integral part of life on earth, regulating our climate and producing oxygen for the planet, yet they are under serious threat due to pollution, over-exploitation, habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change," Hudson told reporters. "We need to improve the way we manage the oceans, before the damage is irreversible."

The report illustrates that the accelerating degradation of the maritime environment as a result of market and policy failures leads to the over exploitation of fisheries, skyrocketing low-oxygen zones in coastal areas, continued introductions of destructive alien species and increased ocean acidification.

The report’s goal was to help both the public and private sectors create "clear incentives and policies" to protect the world’s oceans, added Dr. Naoko Ishii, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the GEF – a UN-backed entity that partners 182 countries with international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives.

"It is very reassuring to learn from this report that an initial public investment on the order of $5 billion over the next 10 to 20 years could be sufficient to catalyze many hundreds of billions of dollars in public and private finance," Dr. Ishii stated.

"We now have the right tools to identify and remove those market and policy failures which have unfortunately sped up the degradation of marine environments," she added.