Ocean action starts here
From pollution to overfishing, to raising temperatures and acidity, the life-support system provided by our ocean is under relentless pressure and its capacity to absorb it is running low. This June in Lisbon, Portugal, the 2020 United Nations Ocean Conference will seek innovative solutions to put an end to the abuse of our ocean and to restore our planet to its healthy, blue self.
Co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya, the Conference will bring together Member States, civil society organizations, industries and youth from all over the world to jointly discuss ways of protecting the ocean, seas and marine resources, on which billions depend for food and livelihoods.
Ahead of the Conference, a two-day preparatory meeting on 4 and 5 February will decide the themes of the eight interactive dialogues of the UN Ocean Conference and the elements of a brief, concise, action-oriented declaration. Held at the UN Headquarters in New York, the preparatory meeting will be co-chaired by Denmark and Palau.
The ocean plays a critical life-sustaining role in safeguarding the health of our planet. It provides oxygen and food, controls the weather, absorbs excess carbon emissions and helps to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
During a speech in January about his 2020 priorities, UN Secretary-General António Guterres cited the Ocean Conference as a key moment to “act decisively” for the environment this year.
“The world’s oceans are under assault from pollution, overfishing and much else. Plastic waste is tainting not only the fish we eat but also the water we drink and the air we breathe,” the Secretary‑General said. “We must use the Lisbon conference to protect the oceans from further abuse and recognize their fundamental role in the health of people and planet.”
Science and innovation—keystones of this year’s Ocean Conference—are indispensable to improving our understanding of marine ecosystems and devising scalable ways to sustainably manage its resources. Ensuring that ocean knowledge and new technologies are made widely available is also critical.
“As a large ocean state, we are all too conscious of our responsibility for the ocean,” said Ngedikes Olai Uludong, Permanent Representative of Palau to the UN. “Caring for the ocean is not just for islands or coastal peoples, but for all of us – because all of humanity depends on the ocean. And we need to work with, and not against, the ocean if we are to prosper. We need to be ambitious, we need to listen to science, we need to be innovative and we need to be action-oriented.”
February’s preparatory meeting for the 2020 UN Ocean Conference will sound the call for more measurable commitments from all stakeholders to safeguard our ocean resources. The commitments will be registered in a database maintained by UN DESA and highlighted at the Conference.
“Our oceans are facing a global emergency. Sea levels are rising, plastic pollution is increasing, the ocean is warmer and more acidic, fish stocks are overexploited and half of all living coral has been lost. We need greater urgency and greater ambition at all levels if we are to achieve SDG 14. We need more truly innovative, entrepreneurial and science-based approaches to ocean and coastal restoration and protection,” said Martin Bille Hermann, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the UN.
“As co-facilitator for the 2020 UN Ocean Conference preparatory process and its outcome document, it is my sincere hope that all Member States come to the Preparatory Meeting with concrete and ambitious ideas that will bring us closer to our common goal of achieving SDG 14,” he added.