Delegates reflected on the progress made since the first UN Ocean Conference in 2017, including the establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop a new international treaty to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.
Despite billions of dollars worth of commitments, questions persisted as to whether pledges would translate into “meaningful assistance for the custodians of the ocean, especially since SDG 14 remains ‘the most underfinanced’ of the 17 Global Goals,” and access to existing finance continues to present problems.
The second UN Ocean Conference generated billions of dollars in voluntary commitments, with approximately 50 high-level pledges, including an investment of at least USD 1 billion to support the creation, expansion, and management of marine protected areas (MPAs) and Indigenous and locally governed marine and coastal areas by 2030, made by the Protecting Our Planet Challenge.
The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary report of the meeting notes that delegates reflected on the progress made since the first UN Ocean Conference in 2017, including the establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop a new international treaty to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. They also “measured progress on the new agreement to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity in the high seas” – a process that many participants hoped will conclude in 2022. Several also called for a moratorium on mining of the deep seabed.
Among the financial pledges made during the conference are:
- A commitment of USD 1.2 billion by the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) to support ocean projects in the region;
- Australia’s pledge of USD 1.2 billion to preserve and restore the Great Barrier Reef;
- Namibia’s pledge to allocate USD 5 million annually to conduct research, control, monitoring, and surveillance in marine ecosystems;
- Sweden’s pledge to provide USD 400,000 in 2022 to support enhanced scientific cooperation in the UN Decade on Ocean Science; and
- A commitment by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to extend an additional EUR 150 million across the Caribbean region as part of the Clean Oceans Initiative.
Yet, as the ENB analysis of the meeting indicates, questions persisted as to whether pledges would translate into “meaningful assistance for the custodians of the ocean, especially since SDG 14 remains ‘the most underfinanced’ of the 17 Global Goals,” and access to existing finance continues to present problems.
Other notable commitments announced at the conference include:
- The launch of the Declaration for the Enhancement of Marine Scientific Knowledge, Research Capacity and Transfer of Marine Technology to Small Island Developing States (SIDS), by the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS);
- Panama’s commitment to protect at least 40% of its marine surface area by 2030;
- China’s pledge to launch 31 marine ecological preservation and restoration projects in the next five years and provide assistance to developing countries, especially SIDS, through the One Belt, One Road initiative;
- Kenya’s plans for a blue economy bank fund;
- Portugal’s plan to invest in producing ocean renewable energies with a view to reaching 10 gigawatts of capacity by 2030;
- A launch by the US, Canada, and the UK of the IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) Fishing Action Alliance;
- India’s commitment to a Coastal Clean Seas Campaign, including work to ban single-use plastics, beginning with plastic bags; and
- Peru’s pledge to submit 19 voluntary contributions, including on aquaculture and ocean acidification.
Looking forward, France and Costa Rica announced their offer to co-host the third UN Ocean Conference in 2025.
Initially planned for 2020 and postponed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the second UN Ocean Conference convened in Lisbon, Portugal, from 27 June to 1 July 2022, and included numerous special events and side events. It was co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal.
The conference supports the second in-depth review of SDG 14 (life below water) at the 2022 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July, and contributes to ongoing negotiations on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which will include a number marine-related targets. [ENB Coverage of Second UN Ocean Conference]