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FAQs on the Ocean Conference and why the ocean matters

In light of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and growing public health concerns, the United Nations Ocean Conference, which was scheduled to take place from 2 to 6 June 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal, was postponed per decision 74/548 adopted by the General Assembly on Monday, 13 April 2020. Co-hosts of the Conference Kenya and Portugal in consultation with the General Assembly will decide on possible future dates for the Conference, including timelines for the preparatory process.

Billions of people depend on the ocean for their main source of protein and millions of others draw their livelihood from the seas. Major economic activities, such as tourism, fisheries and trade, depend on a healthy ocean. The ocean is the primary regulator of the global climate. It supplies half the oxygen we breathe and absorbs a third of the carbon dioxide we produce.

People also matter to the ocean and can play a significant role in safeguarding its health and sustainability. Climate change, for instance, continues to lead to, among others, rising sea levels, warming, de-oxygenation and an increase in extreme weather events that directly threaten the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities, especially in Small Island Developing States.

Marine pollution, largely caused by land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution, is harmful to marine life, hazardous to human health and a major hindrance to marine-related activities.

The forthcoming UN Ocean Conference will play an important role in putting in place a new chapter of ocean action – one that is driven by science, technology and innovation. It will also underscore the need to harness nature-based solutions including restoration and conservation of mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows, known to have major climate mitigation and adaptation potential.

The Conference will take stock of progress and bring together world leaders, scientists, the business community, change-makers and activists to join forces to inspire, create and invest in solutions.

It expects everyone who can make a difference to step up and make the necessary changes needed to transform their policies, businesses and lifestyles into something more sustainable, and less harmful and exploitative. We know that what is happening below the water is not a hopeless situation - there are solutions to reversing the damage and allowing the ocean to heal.

The first Ocean Conference, which took place in New York in June 2017, mobilized an unprecedented number of stakeholders through voluntary commitments and showed the world the status of our ocean and the impact of human activities.

Find out more about how you can make a difference.

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Human health, economic prosperity, and a stable climate depend on a healthy ocean. Action now to address ocean problems will go far to promote sustainable development which is critical for a more equal, peaceful and healthy world.

The short answer is that trouble for the ocean means trouble for people. A healthy ocean means a healthy planet – a planet that can better protect and sustain all living things that depend on it.

Life Below Water - Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals – also commits countries to safeguard our ocean by 2030 to ensure a long-term sustainable future.

There are several outcomes, including three critical ones, expected at the Ocean Conference. The presidents of the conference, the governments of Portugal and Kenya, will report on the outcome of the conference.

  1. 1. Member States will adopt a declaration to implement and facilitate the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources, focusing on and highlighting the science-based and innovative areas of action.
  2. 2. We are expecting stakeholders from governments, businesses to civil society and research institutions to make concrete and realistic voluntary commitments to address the various ocean-related issues affecting their communities, countries and beyond.
  3. 3. The eight thematic dialogues, including on marine pollution, ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming, sustainable fisheries and other ocean-based economies, scientific knowledge and marine technology, and the international legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources, will review the opportunities and challenges with the ambition to advance commitments and action on wide-ranging ocean issues. A report from the relevant chairs is expected at the end of the conference.

In addition to the official programme of the conference, there will be an Investment Forum, co-convened by the UN Global Compact, and a Youth Forum that will showcase youth-driven scientific and innovative solutions.

There is only one global ocean, the vast body of water that covers more than 70% of the Earth—the waters flow and intermingle all around the globe. Pollution in the ocean anywhere can show up everywhere. The oceans that we commonly refer to—the Arctic, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Southern—are more aptly described as ocean regions. Then there are a multitude of sub-regions that flow from seas into bays, estuaries, and so forth.

Yes. Since 60 to 90% of marine litter is made up of different plastics polymers, one of the main solutions for addressing marine pollution in our oceans would be to reduce our plastic footprint, including through efforts to reuse and recycle all plastic instead of throwing them away after one use and implement better waste collection on our shores.