2 March 2017
World Ocean Summit Highlights Financing of Blue Economy, UN Marine Litter Campaign
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
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The World Ocean Summit 2017 hosted a dialogue on financing the blue economy, mobilizing sustainable investments in the ocean, integrating ocean uses and creating a holistic governance system.

The Summit witnessed the launch of the UN Marine Litter Campaign, which aims to eliminate microplastics in cosmetics and the excessive use of single-use plastics, by 2022.

2 March 2017: Organized by the Economist under the theme, ‘Financing the Sustainable Ocean Economy,’ the World Ocean Summit 2017 brought together policy-makers, business leaders, scientists and ocean advocates for a dialogue on financing the blue economy, mobilizing sustainable investments in the ocean, integrating ocean uses and creating a holistic governance system. Among the Summit’s highlights was the launch of the UN Marine Litter Campaign.

The Summit convened from 22-24 February 2017, in Bali, Indonesia. Plenary sessions addressed: the ocean economy; the ocean business; financing the sustainable ocean economy; the Ocean Conference and SDG 14 (Life below Water); climate change and the ocean; tech revolution; and China’s ocean policy. Strategy sessions held during the Summit explored new investment approaches to the sustainable ocean economy, as well as risks and financing challenges around two of the ocean’s most important problems, plastics and fisheries. They specifically addressed: emerging investment and risk frameworks for the ocean; local solutions for plastics and solid waste; financing sustainable fisheries; scaling up investment in sustainable aquaculture; climate-change risk and financing; financing the transition to sustainable shipping; responding to sea-level rise; and pushing renewable energy in the sea.

Dell announced its first shipment of packaging trays made from recycled ocean plastics, which will keep 16,000 pounds of plastic from entering the ocean in 2017.

The UN Marine Litter Campaign launched during the Summit is a new global campaign to eliminate two major sources of marine litter by 2022: microplastics in cosmetics; and the excessive use of single-use plastics. According to UN Environment, more than eight million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean every year, which is equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. Oceans will carry more plastic than fish by 2050, some estimates say, while at stake are not only the pollution of oceans but also the future of coastal fishing and seafood industries. The UN’s new #CleanSeas campaign urges governments to adopt plastic reduction policies. Ten countries have already joined: Belgium, Costa Rica, France, Grenada, Indonesia, Norway, Panama, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone and Uruguay. Indonesia committed to slash its marine litter by 70% by 2025, while Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags, and Costa Rica will take measures to reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education. Furthermore, Dell announced that it has recycled plastics collected from waterways and beaches for use in a new packaging tray, and has made the first shipment of this “ocean plastics packaging.” The commercial-scale programme will keep 16,000 pounds of plastic from entering the ocean in 2017, according to Dell, which also will include educational information on its packaging to raise global awareness on ocean ecosystem health solutions.

On the occasion of the campaign’s launch, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Peter Thomson said the ocean is “the lifeblood of our planet, yet we are poisoning it with millions of tonnes of plastic every year. The time has come to turn the tide on marine litter.” He urged Summit participants to join the Clean Seas campaign and make “an ambitious pledge to reduce single-use plastic…. Be it a tax on plastic bags or a ban on microbeads in cosmetics, each country can do their bit to maintain the integrity of life in the ocean.”

Meanwhile, a study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) shows that invisible plastic particles from textiles and tires are a major source of marine plastic pollution. The global campaign to address microplastics in cosmetics is a welcome initiative, the report states, but the effects of a potential ban would be limited as this source is only responsible for 2% of primary microplastics. According to IUCN, solutions must include product and infrastructure design, as well as consumer behavior. [Summit Webpage] [Summit Programme] [Economist Press Release, 16 February] [UNEP Press Release] [Ocean Action Hub Press Release] [EurActiv Report] [IUCN Press Release] [Primary Microplastics in the Oceans: a Global Evaluation of Sources] [GEF Press Release] [Economist Press Release, 22 February]

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