The OneOcean Flotilla welcomes the prioritization of critical ocean action in a Communiqué released on 16 April 2023 by G7 Climate, Energy and Environment ministers following two days of meetings in Sapporo, Japan.
The 35-page Communiqué outlines many key actions to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises and reaffirms the G7 countries’ commitment to implementing the G7 Ocean Deal, agreed under Germany’s Presidency in 2022. It also highlights commitments to several key international ocean conservation issues.
“Given the outsized role the ocean plays in the functioning of the climate, providing food, and livelihoods as well as being a home for countless species, we’re very encouraged to see ministers from seven of the world’s richest nations putting ocean action firmly on their collective environmental agenda to ensure the health of all people and the future of our planet,” said Travis Aten, coordinator of the One Ocean Flotilla that published a letter signed by 47 NGOs to G7 ministers last week, calling for bold ocean action.
Significant progress has been made at the multilateral level over the past year on biodiversity, which was reinforced by the G7 ministers’ commitment to implement the global plan agreed in December to safeguard nature (the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework), including a target to protect at least 30% of land and sea by 2030 (30×30). They also highlighted the new global ocean Treaty that was concluded last month to protect marine life on the High Seas as an important tool to help achieve 30×30, with ministers calling “for its early entry into force and implementation”.
Antarctica, an iconic area that is under threat from the climate crisis and highly vulnerable to exploitation, is a key opportunity for governments to secure additional ocean protection. The G7 countries reconfirmed their commitment “to adopt, as a matter of urgency, proposals to designate marine protected areas” in East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula that would protect almost 1% of the global ocean. A special meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will take place in Chile in June to discuss these proposals and will be a key opportunity to make urgent progress in accelerating marine protection in the region.
Disappointingly, despite support for bolder measures by some members, the G7 did not yet collectively support a moratorium for deep-sea mining, a controversial emerging industry. New exploitation rules are currently under discussion at the International Seabed Authority (ISA), while a growing body of scientific research warns of the permanent damage the industry would cause if it were to go ahead.
Ministers instead reaffirmed taking a precautionary approach to any potential mining, emphasizing: “A robust knowledge basis on the deep-sea marine environment and on the risks and potential impacts of deep-sea mining operations, that is able to demonstrate the environment is not seriously harmed, is critical for considering our consent in the ISA council, and is a precondition for any future mining permits.” However, in line with international commitments to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ‘serious harm’ is too high a threshold and no harm to marine life should occur if mining were to take place.
Climate action, which is essential for restoring and maintaining ocean health, saw new targets agreed for renewable energy development and a quicker phase-out of fossil fuels, although ministers unfortunately failed to agree on a timeline to phase out coal. Other commitments included resource mobilization to support developing countries to protect nature, as well as a commitment to reduce additional plastic pollution to zero by 2040.
The OneOcean Flotilla now looks to G7 leaders to include these key ocean issues on their diplomatic agenda when they next meet in Hiroshima in May.
As influential countries with a collective agenda to tackle these vital global challenges, the G7 must take leadership to propel progress nationally, but also in the different regional and international fora they are active in. Driving these global environmental priorities within the G20 and getting the buy-in from this wider grouping of powerful countries on a common environmental agenda will be indispensable for success in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises.
“As with many of these high-level declarations, nice words and ambitious statements are only meaningful if we see leaders follow through and deliver on their promises. The real work happens on the water and for these commitments to get translated into practical measures, G7 countries must not undermine or shy away from efforts. The OneOcean Flotilla stands by to support making positive waves on the ocean!” concluded Aten.
Notes to the Editor
- Link to G7 Ministers’ Communiqué on Climate, Energy and Environment https://www.env.go.jp/content/000127577.pdf.
- The OneOcean Flotilla is The OneOcean Flotilla is a collective of marine organisations, seeking to influence ocean protection through aligned, impactful communication. Informed by the work of scientists and other experts, the initiative provides a unified platform for ocean groups. https://www.oceanprotect.org/
- Link to joint OneOcean Flotilla NGO letter sent to G7 ministers: https://www.oceanprotect.org/ministerial-letter-2/