Sat | Mar 24, 2018

UN conference urges global collab for ocean health

Published:Thursday | June 15, 2017 | 12:00 AM

COUNTRIES HAVE been called to "strengthen and promote effective and transparent multi-stakeholder partnerships, including public-private partnerships" to halt the declining health of oceans, which are seen as vital to the global effort to thwart climate change.

The call for action emerged from the United Nations (UN) conference, held in New York from June 5 to 9, to support the implementation of goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda to "conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development".

The call also urges the dedication of "greater resources for marine scientific research ... as well as the collection and sharing of data and knowledge ... to better understand the relationship between climate and the health and productivity of the ocean, to strengthen the development of coordinated early warning systems to extreme weather events and phenomena, and to promote decision-making based on the best available science ..."

Extreme weather events, including stronger hurricanes and droughts, and sea level rise are among the climate change threats facing the world and in particular small island developing states, which are also hugely dependent on the ocean for the sustainability of their significant income earners, notably tourism and fisheries.

Marine biologist Dr Dayne Buddo, who was at the conference, said there was no question of the linkages between ocean health and climate change resilience, particularly for small island developing states (SIDS), such as those of the Caribbean.


Urgent action needed


"Saving our ocean will actually save ourselves. Climate is influenced significantly by the ocean, especially as it relates to storm activity and rainfall patterns.

Coastal stability, especially in SIDS, is directly linked to the health of the reef systems. With climate change, increased seawater temperatures and ocean acidification would result in reduction of the health of the reef and coastal systems," he told The Gleaner.

There is, too, the needling issue of food security.

"With much of the world dependent on protein from seafood, the performance of fish stocks is directly linked to the health of the ocean," Buddo noted.

Among other things, the call published on the UN website, also urges the development of "comprehensive strategies to raise awareness of the natural and cultural significance of the ocean, as well as of its state and role, and of the need to further improve the knowledge of the ocean, including its importance for sustainable development" and how it is impacted by human activities.

Coordinator for the UN Environment Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) Dr Lorna Inniss, who also attended the conference, emphacised the need for collaboration.

"For Wider Caribbean governments to continue to benefit sustainably from our coastal and marine resources and to develop new marine-based economic opportunities, UN agencies need to work more closely together with governments, donors, civil society, and the private sector to ensure win-win opportunities for both the environment and our economies," she said, in a statement issued by UN Environment CEP.

And during the week of the conference, which coincided with World Environment Day and World Oceans Day, on June 5 and 8 respectively, UN Environment CEP was doing its bit for the oceans, partnering with the Caribbean Regional Sub Office to host a series of awareness-raising activities.

Those activities included the public sharing of pledges for environmental protection; production and sharing of videos on the importance of the ocean; photo competitions on the environment and wastewater reuse; and airing of environmental videos on national television stations.

"I am extremely pleased and encouraged by the level of support we received from the public and in particular the private sector for our awareness-raising efforts," said Chris Corbin, pollution and communications programme officer for UN Environment CEP.

"The recognition, by everyone who took part, of the need to improve, for example, our waste management practises and to consider alternatives to single-use plastics, indicated that environmental awareness is growing and this must now be supported by practical solutions to the many challenges being faced," he added.