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Biodiversity and the Future of Océans

Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Oceans, a Fijian speaking at the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework negotiations holding in Rome, makes four salient points concerning how the blue economy relates with biological diversity, climate change and the sustainable development goals in the light of the Super Year

The first point springs from the perspective of most life-forms of this planet, including human beings, to the effect that we are living in a time of climate and environmental emergency, the so-called Anthropocene. The three major IPCC reports of 2019 on the Ocean and Cryosphere, on Land, and on the 1.5ºC ClimateGoal, confirm the predicament we have found ourselves in.

Referring to the IPCC Reports at the UNFCCC’s COP25 in Madrid two months ago, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said in his keynote address, “We are knowingly destroying the very support systems that are keeping us alive.”

So, my first point comes in the way of a question, does the Zero Draft that we are considering here at this Roman gathering sufficiently meet the emergency? In a spirit of intergenerational responsibility, I say to you, if you do have doubts, then this is your opportunity to strengthen the ambition of the draft before us.

The second point comes from the heart of the Ocean. The message is this: there can be no healthy planetary ecosystem without a healthy Ocean ecosystem, and currently the health of the latter is in serious decline. There is a trail of logic that connects the well-being of humanity with that of the Ocean’s coral reefs, and the prognosis for coral is not rosy.

Unconscionable levels of pollution and harmful fishing practices continue. And more importantly, rates of Ocean deoxygenation, acidification and warming are increasing, with humanity’s Greenhouse Gas emissions the guilty party and no immediate curtailment of these expected in the short term.

Without much greater human ambition to correct the destruction of our planetary life-support systems through radical changes to our consumption and production patterns, all our good efforts on behalf of the Ocean’s health and the planet’s biodiversity will come to nought. The point is that everything is connected, silos must be broken, and work-streams must converge, for the Ocean, Biodiversity and Climate Change have one common enemy and that is our Greenhouse Gas emissions.

All efforts in the so-called Super Year, from the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon to the Biodiversity COP in Kunming, must ratchet up our ambition for the outcomes of the UNFCCC COP in Glasgow in November. That must be our common goal and that is my central message to today.

My third point relates to humanity’s relationship with the Ocean’s resources. The Zero Draft refers to the harvesting of wild species and I presume this largely refers to fisheries. If so, then reference to FAO’s SOFIA Report and the recent IPBES Report is necessary, as these make it clear that sustainable aquaculture, not wild catch, is what is vital to the future of humanity’s food security.

Here I underline the Sustainable Blue Economy, never just the Blue Economy, for as long as our use of the Ocean’s resources is ruled by the principle of sustainability, and as long as we treat it right, the Ocean will provide future generations with all the renewable energy, medicine and food they will need for healthy lives.

Reporting by Sidi El Moctar Cheiguer, Michael Simiré and Alex Zaka of ANEJ in Rome, Italy.

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