Side Events Address SDG Linkages, Marine Pollution, Climate Action
Photo by IISD/Francis Dejon
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On the first day of the UN Ocean Conference, side events focused on, inter alia: marine pollution; oceans and SIDS; interconnections among the SDGs to support implementation of Goal 14 (life below water); the role of Asia-Pacific women in leading ocean action; ocean health, climate change and migration; the contribution of scientific knowledge on oceans to national action plans on climate; and the transition to the blue economy.

5 June 2017: On the first day of the UN Ocean Conference, side events focused on, inter alia: marine pollution; oceans and small island developing States (SIDS); interconnections among the SDGs to support implementation of Goal 14 (life below water); the role of Asia-Pacific women in leading ocean action; ocean health, climate change and migration; the contribution of scientific knowledge on oceans to national action plans on climate; and the transition to a blue economy.

On marine pollution, participants recognized that only eight years remain to achieve SDG target 14.1 to significantly reduce all kinds of marine pollution by 2025. Participants shared steps their country or organization is taking to tackle marine pollution, including: a source-to-sea perspective on marine pollution that examines how investments on land in areas such as environmentally sound waste management can contribute to reducing marine pollution (Sweden); efforts to build evidence on the sources and risks of plastic pollution (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)); and examination of microplastics’ ecological and food safety impacts, including quantification of the source of microplastics from fisheries and aquaculture (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)).

Leaders in the tuna industry have pledged that, by 2020, all tuna products in their supply chains will be fully traceable.

A High-level Dialogue on Oceans and SIDS featured calls for action to save the oceans. Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer and Explorer, Mission Blue, Sylvia Earle Alliance, highlighted the current generation’s unique opportunity to take action, stating that her generation was not aware of the problem due to the lack of spatial imaginary technology. Nishan Degnarian, World Economic Forum (WEF), introduced the ‘Tuna Traceability Declaration,’ launched the same day. By this declaration, leaders of the world’s biggest retailers, tuna processors, marketers, traders and harvesters, with the support of civil society organizations and governments, pledge that, by 2020, all tuna products in their supply chains will be fully traceable to the vessel and trip dates, and that this information will be disclosed upon request at the point of sale either on the packaging or via an online system.

On interconnections among the SDGs, Douglas McCauley, University of California, noted that the “first point of connectivity” with SDG 14 is SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth). He explained that if the ocean was an economy it would be the seventh-largest in the world, at US$24 trillion. He also presented examples of strong connections with SDGs 2 (zero hunger), 1 (no poverty), 13 (climate action), 7 (affordable and clean energy) and 15 (life on land).

David Obura, Coastal Oceans Research and Development–Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa, identified several key action areas with regard to the interconnections between SDG 14 and the other SDGs, including: ensuring the sustainability of small-scale and artisanal fisheries and agriculture (related to SDGs 2 and 12 (responsible production and consumption); transitioning to a carbon-neutral environment (related to SDG 13); implementing integrated ocean planning and management (related to SDG 8); and investing in social capital as pathway to future prosperity (related to SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), and SDG 4 (quality education)). Participants also highlighted: the importance of spreading the word on the interlinkages between SDG 14 and the other SDGs to advance the ocean agenda; the need to set a governance review framework and a follow-up strategy on SDG 14; the importance of regional partnerships to address transboundary issues; and using the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) as a follow-up forum on SDG interconnectivity.

On Asia-Pacific women and ocean action, participants shared lessons and strategies on how women’s inclusion can create more effective ocean management for all. Karolina Skog, Minister for the Environment, Sweden, emphasized Sweden’s commitment to gender equality in all SDGs’ implementation. She highlighted: the need to consider how land actions affect ocean health; the importance of women having an equal part in decision-making on sustainable development, whether on land or in oceans; and the importance of ocean literacy to SDG 14 implementation.

On ocean health, climate change and migration, participants discussed the interlinkages between ocean, migration and climate change. Naipote Katonitabua, Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, Fiji, spoke on the threats to oceans and coastal communities, including loss of livelihood, linked to sea level rises and coastal erosion. Mariam Traore Chazalnoel, International Organization for Migration (IOM), shared IOM’s work on the ocean dimensions of migration, including to help populations stay where they are, through disaster risk reduction management and climate change adaptation.

On scientific knowledge on oceans and implementation of national climate action, participants focused on current scientific knowledge on oceans to identify knowledge gaps and contribute towards national action plans on climate and human induced changes in the oceans. Jose Muelbert, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, stressed that we cannot manage what we do not observe and outlined three needs: enhance science on the way climate change impacts oceans; improve technological development regarding ecosystem management; and enhance planning and strategic cooperation between countries. Participants also highlighted the need to better understand ecosystem functioning, especially regarding ocean acidification and processes leading to dead zones, and to improve communication on existing data.

On the blue economy, participants shared opportunities for enhancing the blue economy. José da Silva Goncalves, Minister of Economy and Employment, Cabo Verde, stressed the importance of the blue economy for SIDS, highlighting the potential for his country in tourism, renewable energy, water provision and fisheries. Hans Hogeveen, the Netherlands, stressed the need for innovation and partnerships with the private sector and NGOs, leading to a blue economy that brings sustainable growth, inclusion and social equity. Kathy McLeod, The Nature Conservancy, shared an example of wave attenuation by mangroves and coral reefs, explaining how economic value can be created from these natural services. Geir Odsson, Nordic Council of Ministers, underscored the importance of telling success stories on how to create revenues from oceans resources. John Virdin, Duke University, highlighted the importance of small-scale fisheries as the largest employer in the blue economy, and the need to reinforce them.

The UN Ocean Conference is convening at UN Headquarters in New York, US, from 5-9 June 2017. [ENB on the Side (ENBOTS) Coverage of UN Ocean Conference][ENBOTS coverage of CBD Special Events at the Ocean Conference]


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