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Climate Change Outlook: What Europeans Can Expect

UN Climate's top climate negotiators at the COP24 ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, 2018, Patricia Espinosa center in lavender. (Photo courtesy COP24) Posted for media use.

UN Climate’s top climate negotiators at the COP24 ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, 2018, Patricia Espinosa center in lavender. (Photo courtesy COP24) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, November 20, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – If global warming rises more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and no adequate adaptation measures are taken, Europe is at risk of being exposed to more frequent, intense extreme weather conditions with serious economic impacts.

This outlook results from a detailed assessment of the impact of climate change on Europe’s economy, society and environment made by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Commission’s science and knowledge hub and released on Friday.

The assessment, written by Ignacio Pérez Domínguez and Thomas Fellmann, shows that under a high warming (above 2°C) scenario:

  • Rising temperatures and increased hot spells could result in an additional 132,000 yearly heat fatalities, while labor productivity could drop by 10-15 percent in some southern European countries;
  • Shifts in flower/plant blooming, growing season and changes in soil water content will affect agriculture productivity and habitat suitability, with a potential doubling of the arid climate zone;
  • Sea levels will rise along Europe’s coastlines, resulting in a five-fold increase in coastal flood damages;
  • Three times more people will be exposed to river floods, while river flood damages could rise from 5.3 billion Euro/year to 17.5 billion Euro/year.
  • Energy demand for heating will decrease, yet energy requirements for cooling spaces will rise rapidly;
  • Southern parts of Europe may face increasing water shortage and more droughts, whereas water resources will generally increase in northern Europe;

Most of these climate damages would be greatly reduced under a scenario that keeps warming below the 2°C threshold.

The Joint Research Centre PESETA III report is an agro-economic analysis of climate change impacts in Europe.

The PESETA (Projection of Economic impacts of climate change in Sectors of the European Union based on bottom-up Analysis) project responds to the need to provide quantitative modelling support to the European Commission services regarding the impacts of climate change in Europe.

It brings together experts in economics, biology, physics and engineering to calculate the physical impacts and economic costs of climate change in Europe.

Understanding the possible consequences of climate change is important to design adaptation policies that can help to minimize negative consequences and maximize positive effects.

The European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete is reaching out to other high-emitting countries to foster understanding of the EU’s climate control policies. He spoke at the Tsinghua University in Beijing on November 9, explaining European climate policy and what actions the EU is taking to avert the most dangerous effects of rising temperatures.

Currently, the European Union is implementing its 2020 climate and energy package, said Arias Cañete. Agreed by EU leaders in 2007, this package has three key targets:

  • a 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990
  • a 20 percent share of renewable energies in overall EU energy consumption by 2020
  • increasing energy efficiency in the EU so as to achieve the goal of saving 20 percent of the EU’s energy consumption

Southern Europe to Be Hardest Hit

It appears that the Mediterranean area will be the most impacted by climate change.

The PESETA III assessment shows that in several impact areas there is a clear geographical north-south divide; countries in southern Europe will be more affected by global warming than those in the north.

This is clearly the case for heat-related deaths, water resources, habitat loss, energy demand for cooling and forest fires.

Counting the Cost

The assessment analyzes the impact of climate change for 11 different impact categories: coastal floods, river floods, droughts, agriculture, energy, transport, water resources, habitat loss, forest fires, labor productivity, and heat-related mortality.

For most of these, the report compares a scenario where actions to limit warming to 2°C are successful, compared to one where they are not.

From the economic perspective, the losses associated with heat-related mortality represent “a very significant share of damages” in a high warming scenario.

Other shares, in order of importance, are: coastal flooding, labor productivity, agriculture and river flooding.

As the coverage of potential impacts is incomplete – damages due to possible climate tipping points and ecosystems services losses are not considered – the sum of the economic damage estimates is not equal to the total economic costs of climate change in Europe. The sum of the economic damage estimates is likely to be higher, the authors say.

The PESETA III report also estimates how climate change impacts in the rest of the world could affect Europe, considering four impact areas – residential energy demand, river flooding, labor productivity and agriculture.

The transboundary effect of these four impact categories was estimated to increase the EU welfare loss by 20 percent in a high warming scenario.

The authors stress that the boundary effects could be far greater when all potential impacts of climate change are considered.

In 2015, the world’s governments adopted the Paris Agreement on climate change, the first-ever universal and legally binding agreement to limit global warming, and deal with its dangerous impacts.

The Paris Agreement emerged after the world’s scientists concluded that global warming is happening, and that human activity – greenhouse gas emissions from our economies and industries – is the key cause.

Now, three years later, global negotiations are taking place to make sure that the Paris Agreement is properly implemented. In December, world leaders will gather in Katowice, Poland for the United Nations COP24 conference on climate, where they intend to finalize the Paris Agreement’s rules and guidelines.

Commitments Fall Short of 1.5°Celsius Goal

Miguel Arias Cañete Parlement européen Strasbourg 26 nov 2014 (Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC) Creative Commons license via Wikipedia

Miguel Arias Cañete Parlement européen Strasbourg 26 nov 2014
(Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC) Creative Commons license via Wikipedia

The 10-day COP24, which opens December 2, has a new global scientific assessment to guide policy-making and add urgency to negotiations. Released in October, the new special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), shows that a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees would avoid some of the worst climate impacts, and reduce the likelihood of extreme weather events.

But the IPCC report warns that current climate commitments are not enough to achieve this goal.

The IPCC report shows that, “… 1.5 degrees is achievable – as long as we act urgently, and use every tool at our disposal,” Commissioner Arias Cañete told his audience in Beijing. “So,” he said, “it is clear that we must work together and raise the collective global ambition.”

At the opening of a ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, designed to prepare for the outcome of COP24, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change Patricia Espinosa outlined her expectations for the conference.

“The Special Report by the IPCC unequivocally states that the world is not on track to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, as outlined in the Paris Agreement – and the window to achieve this is closing rapidly. We’re almost out of time,” Espinosa declared.

“It’s not rhetoric – it’s reality,” she said. “It’s not politics – it’s science.”

“And it’s not a suggestion – it’s a warning … a warning that we are in danger of running out of time before runaway climate change is beyond our control.”

“This is frightening – for everyone,” Espinosa said. “And people throughout the world have made it very clear. They expect their representatives – you – to do something about it.”

Espinosa, who hails from Brazil, is urging all nations to get to work immediately to begin resolving the climate crisis.

Success at COP24 means finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Program– period,” she said. “We no longer have the luxury of time, nor do we have the luxury of endless negotiations.”

“Let us never forget,” Espinosa told the ministerial meeting, “that climate change, if left unaddressed, will take almost every single challenge humanity faces and make it worse.”

“It will destabilize the global economy, which will affect all nations,” she warned. “By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy US$2 trillion.”

“It will create conflict over resources and impact migration. It’s estimated that climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050. Worse, it will result in incredible suffering and hardship for people and societies throughout the world,” Espinosa

But addressing climate change, and committing to a low-emissions future—one that is more resilient and sustainable—offers incredible opportunity.

It’s not just an opportunity to do the right thing—it’s an opportunity to completely transform the way we produce and consume, and the way we live.

And that means new markets, new businesses, and, for so many people throughout the world, new jobs…quality jobs…a just transition to a future that is just for all people.

Featured image source: Drought shrinks the reservoir at El Grado, a municipality located in the province of Huesca, Aragon, in northern Spain. August 2012 (Photo by Jorge Franganillo) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ISPRA, Italy, August 14, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Famous Hawaiian swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku always warned, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” He wanted people to watch out for the physical dangers of being hit by a wave from behind, and he wanted humankind to show respect for the ocean – a warning that today is more urgent than ever.

The findings of two Joint Research Centre (JRC) studies released on Monday show that without increased investment in coastal adaptation, the annual damage caused by coastal floods in Europe could increase from €1.25 billion today to between €93 billion and €961 billion by the end of the century.

One in three citizens of the European Union lives within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the coast. Due to an increase in extreme sea levels driven by global warming, coastal floods could impact up to 3.65 million people every year in Europe by 2100, compared to around 102,000 people affected today.

In the JRC studies scientists project both how global extreme sea levels will change during the present century, and also how rising seas combined with socioeconomic change will affect future losses from coastal flooding.

Sea levels are rising, and the trajectory is expected to continue beyond the year 2100, even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized right now. Most scientists expect the sea to rise by at least one meter (39 inches) during this century, and many believe sea levels may even rise three meters by 2100, in view of new evidence on ice-cliff instability of the Antarctic.

Antarctica alone has the potential to contribute more than a meter of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 meters by 2500, if emissions continue unabated, finds a 2016 study by Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Geosciences, and David Pollard of Penn State University’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.

DeConto and Pollard warn that atmospheric warming will become the dominant driver of ice loss, and prolonged ocean warming will delay ocean recovery for “thousands of years.”

With continued ocean and atmospheric warming, sea levels are likely to rise for many centuries at rates higher than that of the current century, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Global warming is expected to drive increasing extreme sea levels and flood risk along all the world’s coastlines. This year sea levels continue their upward movement, rising about three inches higher than levels measured in 1993.

Higher sea levels mean that deadly and destructive storm surges push farther inland than they once did, causing more frequent flooding.

In cities, rising seas threaten infrastructure underpinning local jobs and regional industries. Roads, bridges, subways, water supplies, oil and gas wells, power plants, sewage treatment plants, landfills – virtually all human infrastructure – is at risk from sea level rise, NOAA warns.

European scientists are issuing equally urgent warnings of “unprecedented flood risk unless timely adaptation measures are taken.”

The JRC researchers considered two scenarios – one where moderate policy efforts are made to mitigate climate change and a business as usual situation.

They concluded that in order for Europe to keep future coastal flood losses constant relative to the size of the economy, defense structures need to be installed or reinforced to withstand increases in extreme sea levels ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 meters (1.64 to 8.2 feet).

The researchers identified climate change as the main driver of the projected rise in costs from coastal flooding. This is a change from the current situation globally, where increasing risk has been driven by socioeconomic development.

In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in high-population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms.

Globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast, according to the United Nations Atlas of the Oceans . These are the cities most at risk of sea level rise. They are: Tokyo, Japan; Mumbai, India; New York City, USA; Shanghai, China; Lagos, Nigeria; Los Angeles, USA; Calcutta, India; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a 2017 study in “Scientific Reports” from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Hawaii.

The study, led by Sean Vitousek, a engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, projects increases in flooding for Pacific islands, parts of Southeast Asia and coastlines along India, Africa and South America in the years and decades ahead, before spreading to engulf nearly the entire tropical region.

Alarming projections by Climate Central, a U.S.-based climate change science and advocacy group, show that approximately one million South Africans live in areas that will be inundated by rising seas as the climate warms, unless carbon emissions are cut steeply by the year 2100.

A World Bank study  published in March identified coastal areas with low elevation, and assessed the consequences of continued sea-level rise for 84 developing countries, using satellite maps of the world overlaid with data on population growth.

Including 12 Southeast Asian nations: Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, D.P.R Korea, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – the World Bank study found that the impact of sea-level rise will be particularly severe for this region.

A one-meter rise may displace some 37 million people, the World Bank concluded. The number of vulnerable people would increase to 60 million with a two-meter rise. A three-meter rise can impact 90 million people, nearly equivalent to the population of Vietnam, the fourth most populated country in East Asia.

China and Indonesia are the two countries most vulnerable to permanent inundation.

In March, China’s oceanic authority called for measures to cope with rising sea levels.

A report released by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said that the average sea level along China’s coast in 2017 was 58 mm (2.28 inches) higher than the average level between 1993 and 2011.

Over the past six years, the sea level along China’s coast has remained high compared with the previous 24 years.

The situation is the result of climate change and global warming, which have increased the temperature of China’s coastal regions and the ocean, according to the SOA report.

Rising sea levels will increase the area inundated by sea water, aggravate marine disasters, and harm the ecosystem, Chen Zhi, an SOA official, told the state-run Xinhua news agency in March.

The report said China’s ability to prevent and respond to disasters should be improved. The layout of coastal cities and infrastructure planning should take the rising sea levels into account, and emergency shelters and warehouses for disaster relief supplies should be located a safe distance from high-risk areas.

The SOA report advises that China’s coastal cities should verify the flood protection ability and upgrade design standards for important infrastructure projects in the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the northern coastal area of Bohai, near Beijing.

The report calls for protecting ecological resources, including coastal mangroves and wetlands.

The management of coastal water resources must be strengthened, the SOA advised, saying that the overexploitation of groundwater and land subsidence in coastal regions should be controlled in order to reduce harm from salt tides, sea water encroachment, and soil salinization.

China’s State Oceanic Administration report proposes pushing forward international cooperation in global marine governance, such as observation and prediction, risk assessment, and the response to rising sea levels.

One response that promotes safety, as Duke Kahanamoku said, “Never turn your back on the ocean.”

Featured Image: Wave breaks on the coast of Ireland, September 29, 2013 (Photo by John Twohig) Creative Commons license via Flickr



Insurance Industry Wakes Up to Ocean Risks

Sea level rise inundates streets in St. Louis, Senegal which borders the Atlantic Ocean on Africa's west coast. September 2015 (Photo by Patrick Schumacher) Public domain via Flickr

Sea level rise inundates streets in St. Louis, Senegal which borders the Atlantic Ocean on Africa’s west coast. September 2015 (Photo by Patrick Schumacher) Public domain via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda, May 10, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Unprecedented changes occurring in the oceans signal the urgent need for a multi-sectoral approach, with businesses, governments and the insurance industry working together, finds a new report presented at the world’s first Ocean Risk Summit by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The report, “Ocean connections: An introduction to rising risks from a warming, changing ocean,” was commissioned by XL Catlin, a global insurance and reinsurance company headquartered in Bermuda. It covers rising ocean temperatures and stressors such as ocean acidification and a reduction in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the oceans on the marine environment and human life, and their consequences for society.

“The changing chemistry and physics of the ocean as a result of climate change can have devastating consequences for human life, health and livelihoods, the scale of which we are only beginning to realize,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme.

“The insurance industry can play a significant role in helping businesses, governments and communities mitigate damages and better adapt to these changes,” said Lundin. “Insurance against the loss of ecosystems can provide the much needed protection for people dependent on them for their livelihoods, while encouraging their sustainable management.”

The IUCN report was released Tuesday as high-profile speakers from across the political, economic, environmental and risk sectors gathered in Bermuda for the first Ocean Risk Summit.

The island, a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean that lies 1,070 km (665 miles) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, is on the front line of ocean changes, exposed to rising sea levels, declining fish stocks and an expected increase in tropical cyclone intensity.

The event, which wound up today, featured high-level speakers providing expert data, analysis and innovative tools to help participants identify potential exposures to ocean risk and prepare to tackle its far-reaching and costly consequences.

Speakers at the summit included IUCN Patrons of Nature HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and HM Queen Noor Al Hussein of Jordan, and Founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson.

Charles Cooper, chief executive of Reinsurance at XL Catlin, said, “Ocean risk is among the biggest challenges we face, but with the right approach, we can incentivize positive change, to protect natural and human capital for the future.”

Insurance Industry Warned: Prepare for Ocean Risks

The Ocean Risk Summit also received another report, “Ocean Risk and the Insurance Industry” by mathematician and climate modeler, Dr. Falk Niehörster.

It assesses how the global insurance sector, founded on the need to protect against loss in the marine shipping sector, now needs to equip itself, such as building new modeling systems to account for multiple and inter-connected risks.

These risks include coastal inundation caused by sea-level rise, intensifying storms, and threats to human wellbeing caused by factors such as the loss of marine food resources and a growth in ocean-borne viruses.

Dr. Niehörster told local news outlet Bernews, “This is a wake-up call to the insurance sector to focus on the risks emanating from ocean change. It makes clear there is urgent work needed to better prepare the industry, which in turn can help build resilience to economies and society most at risk from these impacts.”

The IUCN report warns that ocean warming will affect global food security as a result of changes in fishery yields and the distribution of fish stocks. Damages to property and the displacement of people are expected to rise as a result of sea-level rise and frequent extreme weather events such as storms and floods.

The health of marine species and humans will be affected by increasing bacteria and virus outbreaks as pathogens spread more easily due to the warming waters, while travel and tourism will be impacted by frequent coral bleaching events, the IUCN reports.

There is no comprehensive analysis of the costs to society from ocean stressors, but the IUCN warns that these costs will be significant.

For instance, the 2016 algal blooms and aquaculture fish kills in Chile due to a strong El Niño Eastern Tropical Pacific warming pattern resulted in losses of up to US$800 million.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that 2017 was the most expensive year in history for losses from weather and climate-related events, costing the global economy an estimated US$320 billion.

Blue Resilience Carbon Credits

Today, The Nature Conservancy and XL Catlin announced a project to develop Blue Resilience Carbon Credits. These will, for the first time, value the combined carbon sequestration and resilience benefits provided by coastal wetland ecosystems.

Support provided by XL Catlin will allow The Nature Conservancy to explore the development of a system of credits assigning a market value to the resilience services provided by these ecosystems, which are historically undervalued.

“Blue carbon is an emerging opportunity for wetland conservation and restoration, gaining popularity in international policy spheres,” said Maria Damanki, global managing director for the ocean at The Nature Conservancy.

“Wetlands help to fight both climate change and achieve greenhouse gas mitigation targets, whilst helping to make coasts more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” she said.

“An economic incentive is vital for coastal wetland conservation to curtail wetland destruction by creating a financial value for the resilience these systems offer. This is why the Blue Carbon Resilience Credits are so important,” said Damanki.

Paul Jardine, chief experience officer for XL Catlin, said, “In 2017 XL Catlin launched its Ocean Risk Initiative to help identify solutions and build resilience at local, regional and global levels to the implications of ocean related risk. Our collaboration with The Nature Conservancy is an exciting and real-world example of our commitment.”

The hope behind the Blue Resilience Carbon Credits initiative is that, for the first time, insurance firms and other businesses will be able to offset their carbon footprints while better understanding the contribution they are making to reducing coastal hazards in the world’s most vulnerable coastal areas.

Featured Image: Coastal damage in the aftermath of the 2015 floods on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Photo by Rajiv Jalim) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Oceans Inspire Global Call to Action

FijiSoftCoralCave

Diver explores a soft coral cave in Fiji, June 6, 2009 (Photo by thundafunda) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, June 13, 2017 (Maximapct.com) – Ending the United Nations’ inaugural Ocean Conference on a wave of enthusiastic determination, the 193 UN Member States Friday agreed on a Call to Action  listing specific measures to restore health to Earth’s degraded oceans by 2030.

This outcome document, together with 1,328 voluntary commitments to action, represents a breakthrough in the global approach to the management and conservation of the ocean.

The commitments address Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

“The Ocean Conference has changed our relationship with the ocean,” said President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji, which co-organized the conference with Sweden.

“Henceforth,” said Thomson, “none can say they were not aware of the harm humanity has done to the ocean’s health. We are now working around the world to restore a relationship of balance and respect towards the ocean.”

Recognizing that the wellbeing of present and future generations is linked to the health and productivity of the ocean, all countries agreed, “to act decisively and urgently, convinced that our collective action will make a meaningful difference to our people, to our planet and to our prosperity.”

The Call to Action recognizes the importance of the Paris Agreement on Climate; countries agreed to develop and implement measures to address the effects of climate warming on the oceans, such as acidification, sea-level rise and increase in ocean temperatures that harm corals and other marine life.

“We are particularly alarmed by the adverse impacts of climate change on the ocean, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean and coastal acidification, deoxygenation, sea-level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, coastal erosion and extreme weather events,” the UN Member States declared in their Call to Action.

“We acknowledge the need to address the adverse impacts that impair the crucial ability of the ocean to act as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity, and as key provider of food and nutrition, tourism and ecosystem services, and as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth,” they stated.

“We are committed to halting and reversing the decline in the health and productivity of our ocean and its ecosystems and to protecting and restoring its resilience and ecological integrity,” they stated. “We recognise that the wellbeing of present and future generations is inextricably linked to the health and productivity of our ocean.”

The Call to Action includes measures to protect coastal and blue carbon ecosystems, such as mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrass and coral reefs, and wider interconnected ecosystems, as well as enhancing sustainable fisheries management, including to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield.

Wu Hongbo, UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs and secretary-general of the Ocean Conference, said the conference moved the world closer to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed unanimously by UN Member States in 2015.

OceansConfOrganizers

At the Oceans Conference, from left: President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji; Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister and Green Party spokesperson Isabella Lövin; UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference Wu Hongbo of China. June 8, 2017 (Photo by Evan Schneider courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

“Participants from member States, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and academia engaged in wide-ranging discussion and shared state-of-the-art knowledge and latest information on marine science and challenges,” Wu said. “They showcased and put forward many innovative solutions, which can help us achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14, and through its interlinkages the other SDGs and targets.”

Fiji’s President Frank Bainimarama emphasized the threats of climate change and ocean litter, declaring that greedy nations and commercial interests threaten livelihoods in small island developing states such as his South Pacific island home.

Among its many voluntary commitments as co-organizer of the Ocean Conference, the Government of Fiji launched the Fiji Whale and Dolphin Action Plan to protect whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. This commitment is a follow-up to Fiji’s declaration of its Exclusive Economic Zone as a whale sanctuary in 2003.

There are 10 confirmed species of whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. Humpback whales breed and calve there, and as many as 15 other cetacean species pass through on their migrations or reside there is small numbers.

But population levels of humpback whales and other whale species are at critically low levels, and the Oceania humpback whale sub-population has been declared endangered.

Sweden, the other Ocean Conference co-organizer, also has made many voluntary commitments to ocean restoration, including a contribution of 50 million SEK (US$5.5 million) to The Blue Action Fund, which makes funding available for the activities of national and international nongovernmental organizations in their efforts to help conserve marine and coastal ecosystems.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with KfW Development Bank founded the Blue Action Fund as a response to the funding gap for the conservation of marine biodiversity, networks of marine protected areas and transboundary conservation measures. The Fund will work in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific region.

“Do what you can, do it wisely, and most importantly do it now. A healthy ocean is not a luxury item. It is a necessity for survival,” Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden told the Stockholm Resilience Centre event on engaging the private sector in SDG 14 held on June 9 at UN headquarters.

“All alarm bells are ringing: We are coming dangerously close to fatal tipping points,” the princess said, emphasizing the critical role of the ocean in sustaining life on Earth. “Taking care of the ocean means taking care of ourselves,” she said.

The Crown Princess spoke at the side event featuring the efforts of nine of the world’s largest seafood companies, members of the science-based sustainability initiative Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS).

The princess praised the SeaBOS commitment to sustainable seafood by connecting the global seafood business to science; wild capture fisheries to aquaculture; and European and North American companies to Asian companies.

Conference organizers say commitments made at the conference indicate that the world is on track to designate more than 10 percent of the oceans as Marine Protected Areas by 2020.

Many countries announced steps to reduce or eliminate single use plastics and microplastics that end up in the oceans, where they harm sea birds and animals.

Numerous countries announced that they are stepping up their efforts to reduce the amount of sewage and pollution entering the ocean from land-based activities.

Many commitments focused on expanding scientific knowledge about the ocean and developing and sharing innovative technologies to address ocean challenges.

There were new commitments to protect and manage fisheries. Some countries announced “no-take zones” for certain fisheries.

Commitments were made to establish systems that allow consumers to more easily source sustainable fish.

New commitments were made to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to curtail fishing subsidies that result in depleted fish populations.

In the Call to Action, the UN Member States agreed to develop an “international legally binding instrument” under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to govern the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, the so-called high seas.

They want the UN General Assembly to decide on the convening and on the starting date of an intergovernmental conference to negotiate this legally binding agreement on high seas governance before the end of its 72nd session on September 25.


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Featured Image: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden at the UN Ocean Conference, June 9, 2017 (Photo courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use