Oceans emergency declared

Photo: Prime Minister of Fiji/Facebook

Updates from the UN Oceans conference

The United Nations Secretary General has declared an “ocean emergency” at the 2022 UN Oceans Conference co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya in Lisbon.

Addressing delegates attending the conference Monday, António Guterres called for a new chapter of ocean action driven by science, technology and innovation.

UN Secretary General Guterres also urged the international community to commit and unite around the protection and preservation of the oceans with four recommendations to ensure that the tide is reversed.

“We need sustainable business models for ocean economies to operate in harmony with the marine environment, and to guarantee a sustainable seafood industry.

“Second, the ocean must become a model on how we can manage the global commons for our greater good.

“Third, we must protect the oceans, and the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on them, from the impacts of climate change.

“Fourth, we need more science and innovation to propel us into a new chapter of global ocean action,” he said.

Fiji’s big commitments in Portugal

Fiji’s Prime Minister and Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum has told the oceans conference that by 2030, “100% of our waters will be sustainably managed, with 30% designated as marine protected areas.  

“Today we go further. By 2024, the Lau Seascape –– an area of ocean that represents eight percent of Fiji’s ocean –– will become a Marine Protected Area.  The Lau Seascape is an initiative of conservation groups and the people of Lau.

Bainimarama also stated “By 2030, we will ban virtually all single-use plastics and recycle all PET bottles; ocean literacy will be a mandatory component of our education system; and we’ll slash carbon emissions in our shipping sector by 40%. After fully mapping our entire 1.3 million square kilometer EEZ by 2025, we will achieve total real-time surveillance of Fiji’s waters. And by 2030 we will produce more than 160,000 metric tonnes of sustainably farmed and harvested ocean product, supporting over 53,000 new jobs on our way to supply half of all blue foods from sustainable fisheries by 2035.”

He called on world leaders to scale up ocean finance to fund initiatives such as these.

“These protections can’t wait. These investments can’t wait, nor can the jobs they create. And Fiji won’t wait for the world to plug the gap in global ocean finance. We will launch the first tranche of a blue bond by this August to blue our economy and take on external threats like overfishing and acidification.”

Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) call for ocean finance

At the opening of the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, the President of Palau, Surangel Whipps, Jr stressed the need for sustainable, and responsible, public and private investment in our Ocean.

“Of all the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 14 is by far the least funded, representing only 0.01% of all SDG funding, less than 2% from Green Climate Fund (GCF) and only 0.7% of Global Environmental Facility (GEF).  We must attract and retain sustainable and responsible public and private investment, including foreign direct investment through blending, guarantees and other innovative financial instruments, paying particular attention to women and youth.”

Also, of serious concern for the PSIDS is plastic pollution.

The Pacific contributes less than 1.3% of mismanaged plastic pollution yet is grossly and disproportionately affected by its impacts. Every day approximately eight million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans with approximately 12 million tonnes of plastic being poured into our ocean every year.  Based on current projections, there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish by 2050. 

The PSIDS has welcomed the decision to convene an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an internationally legally binding instrument on plastic pollution that includes the marine environment.

“This instrument must take into account the role played by all stakeholders throughout the full plastics lifecycle and recognise the need for global intervention at each stage.”

Fiji joins Alliance for a Deep Sea Mining Moratorium

Fiji has joined the Alliance for a Deep Sea Mining Moratorium because “we refuse to destroy what we do not understand” says Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

“We won’t be able to replace the potential discoveries that seabed mining could grind into dust –– we have to put knowledge first,” stressed Bainimarama.

There is growing pressure from French, Canadian and U.S corporations to advance the deep-sea mining (DSM) agenda, as well as interest from the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association. Just as energy corporations are looking towards deep-sea oil and gas reserves, companies are developing technology to exploit mineral ore deposits found on the ocean floor, including cobalt crusts, seafloor massive sulphides and ferromanganese nodules.

If no moratorium is put in place, mining of the deep seas could begin by July 2023, threatening one of the world’s largest carbon sinks as well as fragile ocean ecosystems.

PIF hopes for concrete commitment in COP 27

The Pacific Island Forum leaders have called on its dialogue partners to ensure that COP 27 builds on the achievements of COP 26.

Secretary-General, Dr Filimon Manoni hopes that COP 27 delivers clear progress on turning pledges to concrete commitment into action consistent with the 1.5 degree pathway.

Dr Manoni says COP 27 must also advance the work on the ocean climate nexus and show meaningful progress on a new collective climate finance goal and funding arrangements for loss and damage.

PNG’s efforts to protect oceans

Papua New Guinea will discuss the recently approved Global Climate Fund component, among others, at the Second United Nations Oceans Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

PNG also hopes to discuss the approval and implementation of the maritime transportation bills, particularly the use of the Jomard Passage in Milne Bay Province by large vessels. 

Plastic threat weighs heavily on Pacific Leaders’ minds

Marine plastic pollution is a threat to Pacific Islands people. At the United Nations Ocean Conference 2022 in Lisbon Portugal, Pacific leaders have taken their concerns to the global stage, calling for collective action to protect our ocean.

“In line with Sustainable Development Goal 14, our role and responsibility as ocean stewards is to protect our ocean from plastics and other pollution,” said the Prime Minister of Tonga, Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni, who spoke on behalf of Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) during an Interactive dialogue.

“We need to protect peoples’ cultural identity, human rights, fisheries, and tourism industries livelihoods, food security and human health through the diligent stewardship of our ecosystems.”

Pacific islands welcome the decision made at the fifth meeting of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in March this year to form an internationally binding instrument by 2024 to end plastic pollution, and an agreement to establish a science-policy panel on chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution. 

“The instrument must address the full life cycle of plastics including the reduction of virgin plastic production, the phasing out of toxic and avoidable plastics, problematic and single-use plastic products and additives, and the harmonisation of design and labelling standards,” said Hon. Sovaleni.

“This must support the transition to a safe circular global economy and to find alternatives to allow for our continued economic development and to support human and biodiversity health.”