UN Biodiversity Conference Recognizes Achievement of Aichi Target on Oceans, Discusses Future Action
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The UN Biodiversity Conference featured announcements on the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) and discussed actions to support sustainable oceans and fisheries.

The ‘2016 Protected Planet Report,’ finds that the world has achieved the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 on protecting 10% of coasts and marine areas by 2020.

Mexico pledged to protect an additional 650,000 square kilometers of its land and sea.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced four new MPAs as part of a declaration to designate 18 new PAs.

Side events to the Conference focused on achieving SDG 14 on life below water and discussed issues related to oceans and marine resources such as biodiversity conservation, tourism and fisheries management; coral reef science; marine litter; and partnerships for the oceans.

15 December 2016: The world has achieved the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 on protecting 10% of its coasts and marine areas by 2020, according to a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The report titled, ‘2016 Protected Planet Report,’ finds that 3.6 million square kilometers of ocean, an area larger than India, have been designated as marine protected areas (MPAs) since April 2016.

Participants at the 2016 UN Biodiversity Conference recognized this achievement. The Conference has featured announcements on the creation of new MPAs and discussed a range of actions and activities to support sustainable oceans and fisheries, in line with the Aichi Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The revised ‘2016 Protected Planet Report’ identifies the recent creation of five “mega MPAs” off the coasts of Chile, Hawaii, US, Palau, the Pitcairn Islands and St. Helena’s as helping to bring the total global percentage of protected seas to 12.7%. Despite this progress, the report cautions there is unequal representation of ecosystems and areas with high biodiversity represented in current MPAs, stating that only one-third of global marine ecoregions have more than 10% of their areas under protection. The report further cautions that not all PAs are effectively or equitably managed. The report recommends investing in PAs to strengthen fisheries management, cope with climate change, control invasive species and reduce harmful incentives that threaten biodiversity.

UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim said, “the establishment of so many new PAs is tremendous news and should give those fighting tirelessly to conserve the world’s oceans and seas an enormous sense of achievement.”

Commenting on the revised figures, UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim said, “the establishment of so many new PAs is tremendous news and should give those fighting tirelessly to conserve the world’s oceans and seas an enormous sense of achievement.” At the same time, he stressed, “It is not just about the size of the area under protection, but also about where these zones are located and how strong that protection really is.”

CBD Executive Secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias also welcomed progress in extending PAs, saying the CBD is “looking forward to the same ambition being met across the other targets.” International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Director General Inger Andersen welcomed “this important milestone in protecting the world’s seas. MPAs are crucial for sustainable development and global food security, as well as helping conserve the rich diversity of life on this planet.”

At the UN Biodiversity Conference, a number of countries announced the creation of MPAs. Mexico pledged to protect an additional 650,000 square kilometers of its land and sea. Mexico’s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, explained, “As president for the UN Biodiversity Conference, Mexico wants to send a clear signal on the urgency to meet the Aichi Targets by taking unprecedented actions to preserve marine and terrestrial ecosystems.” The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced four new MPAs as part of a declaration to designate 18 new PAs.

UN Environment Patron of Oceans and endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh announced his ‘Antarctica 2020’ campaign to designate three MPAs in vulnerable areas of the Antarctica by 2020. In combination with the recent Ross Sea MPA, this goal would increase Antarctica’s total MPAs to nearly seven million square kilometers, an area equivalent to Australia.

Also on the sidelines of the Conference, numerous side events focused on opportunities for achieving SDG 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) and discussed a range of issues related to oceans and marine resources, including the relationship among biodiversity, tourism and fisheries management; coral reef science; marine litter; and partnerships for the oceans.

The event titled, ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity: Tourism and fisheries management,’ showcased island solutions that are contributing to building resilience and implementing the Aichi Targets, the SDGs and the SAMOA Pathway and discussed the integration of sustainable fisheries management into wider sustainable development frameworks, including tourism. The Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA), the CBD Secretariat and the Government of Mexico organized the event at the Rio Conventions Pavilion (RCP) on 7 December.

On coral reefs, the event titled, ‘Coral reefs in a changing world: from science to action,’ provided an update on the state of knowledge on coral biodiversity, conservation and ecosystem services, including a discussion on threats related to human-related impacts, such as destructive fishing practice, pollution and ocean acidification. The event also highlighted initial findings from the Tara Foundation’s two-year ‘TARA PACIFIC’ expedition, which is exploring the Pacific ocean’s coral reefs to analyze their resilience and capacity to adapt to climate and demographic changes. Future Earth and the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) organized the event.

On marine litter, the side event titled, ‘Marine litter: Up and downstream solutions to reduce plastic burden to the marine and coastal biodiversity,’ discussed the threats increasing marine litter poses to marine and coastal biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, and human health. It highlighted global actions to address marine litter through the SDGs, the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) resolution on Marine plastic litter and microplastics and the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, among others. Participants shared examples of approaches for reducing plastic waste that enters the sea, including opportunities for reducing plastic waste use in production, products and packaging as important upstream solutions and collection, recycling and environmentally sound disposal of waste as examples of downstream solutions. UN Environment, the CBD Secretariat and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) organized the event.

On partnerships and capacity, a side event titled, ‘Sustainable Ocean Initiative (SOI): Global platform for capacity development and partnerships for achieving Aichi Biodiversity Targets and SDGs in marine and coastal areas,’ reviewed capacity building opportunities through the SOI and discussed options for sharing experiences and reporting on national progress towards the biodiversity-related Aichi Targets and the SDGs. Participants presented examples of best practices related to integrated and cross-sectoral approaches, marine spatial planning through role-playing and solution-based approaches. The Republic of Korea, GIZ and the CBD Secretariat hosted the event.

The Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI) shared its work on ‘Enhancing EBSA Scientific Methodologies and Approaches: The GOBI contribution,’ during a side event. The event outlined GOBI’s work and recommendations on the future of EBSAs and highlighted linkages with the SDGs and other UN processes.

Other CBD side events related to oceans addressed, inter alia: small-scale fisheries, livelihoods and food security in MPAs; capacity development measures for coastal and marine biodiversity conservation; sharks, parks and whales.

Also on oceans, UN Environment released a booklet titled, ‘Vision: A Prosperous Western Indian Ocean Region with Healthy, Rivers, Coasts and Oceans.’ The booklet describes how the region is working towards improving the coastal and marine environment through the Nairobi Convention for the Development, Protection and Management of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Western Indian Ocean, a mechanism for regional cooperation, coordination and collaboration. [UN Press Release on MPAs] [UN Environment Press Release on Protected Planet Report] [IUCN Press Release on Protected Planet Report] [Protected Planet December 2016 Statistics] [2016 Protected Planet Report] [IISD RS Coverage of UN Biodiversity Conference] [IISD RS Coverage of RCP Tourism and Fisheries Management Event] [RCP Event Webpage] [Coral Reef Event Webpage] [TARA PACIFIC Expedition] [Marine Litter Event Webpage] [SOI Event Website] [EBSA Side Event Webpage] [IISD RS Coverage of Sharks, Parks and Whales Side Event] [IISD RS Coverage of Capacity Building Side Event] [IISD RS Coverage of Small-scale fisheries, Food Security Side Event][Vision: A Prosperous Western Indian Ocean Region with Healthy, Rivers, Coasts and Oceans] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Mexico MPAs] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Ross Sea]


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