The UN General Assembly held a high-level event to build momentum for achieving SDG 14 (life below water).
Speakers linked ocean action to a sustainable recovery from COVID-19, given that a transition to a low-carbon and resource-efficient green economy requires transformations in the ocean and seas.
The event took place in the lead-up to the Second UN Ocean Conference in Portugal in 2022.
The UN General Assembly held a high-level event to build momentum for achieving SDG 14 (life below water). The event took place in the lead-up to the Second UN Ocean Conference in Portugal in 2022, which was delayed from 2020 due to COVID-19, hampering the evaluation of progress on Goal 14.
The hybrid in-person/virtual event took place on 1 June 2020, which was also annual World Reef Awareness Day.
In the opening session, the host of the 2022 Conference addressed participants. Portugal’s Minister of the Sea, Ricardo Serrão Santos, said the Conference aims to make the Ocean inclusive and connected. UNGA President Volkan Bozkir said the world has become more aware that a healthy ocean is key to a healthy economy. Raychelle Omamo, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, said financial solutions, information sharing, and technological capacity building could help developing countries to scale up their actions on SDG 14.
Discussions highlighted the inclusive nature of green-blue solutions, given regional inequalities and differences in resilience to ocean degradation.
Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, said the UN Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030) will play a leading role in tackling ocean acidification, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and marine pollution, which remain unabated. He added that marine organisms are being suffocated and depleted, not only by climate change impacts but also by plastic pollution. Maggie Q, SDG 14 Advocate and Founder of QEEP UP, said coral reefs only cover 1% of the ocean floor yet are responsible for food, shelter, and breeding grounds for 25% of all marine species.
A series of panel discussions addressed the four SDG 14 targets with a 2020 deadline:
- protecting and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems (14.2);
- ending unreported fishing and overfishing, and destructive fishing practices (14.4);
- conservation of coastal and marine areas (14.5); and
- eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies (14.6).
Delegates discussed a “triple-P” approach to ocean restoration – protect, produce, and prosper. They also called for concluding negotiations at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) upcoming session addressing prohibiting harmful fishing subsidies. Delegates also called for the UN to facilitate a legally binding global and robust treaty to tackle marine plastics.
Speakers linked ocean action to a sustainable recovery from COVID-19, calling for “blue economy” policies to be the cornerstone of recovery, given that a transition to a low-carbon and resource-efficient green economy requires transformations in the ocean and seas.
Discussions also highlighted regional inequalities and differences in the ability to cope with and recover from the impacts of ocean degradation. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin reported that the high-level event, “accepting the challenge to develop more inclusive solutions,” conveyed optimism that a green-blue recovery from the pandemic is possible.
The Second UN Ocean Conference is planned to convene in Lisbon, Portugal, “as soon as public health conditions allow” in 2022. The first UN Ocean Conference took place in New York, US, in 2017. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin meeting coverage]