Tackling climate breakdown and holding warming at or as close to 1.5 degrees as is now possible, is essential if the ecosystem services of the ocean are to survive and ocean communities are to thrive. All states need to commit to new, equitable and more ambitious NDCs in 2021 to reduce emissions and carbon dioxide should be given special recognition for its particular impact on the ocean.
The High Seas – the area beyond the national jurisdiction (ABNJ) of any state – makes up nearly half the planet and two-thirds of the whole ocean. A new international treaty is being negotiated at the UN to bring protection to the area and states should complete this as a matter of urgency and by the end of 2020.
We are calling for a robust treaty by 2020 that provides:
- A strong global process for the establishment, effective management and enforcement of a network of highly protected and implemented Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in ABNJ;
- A framework to ensure that human activities outside of protected areas are subject to rigorous environmental impact assessments, and are effective, consistent, comprehensive, accountable and rigorous; and
- Institutional arrangements that establish a global decision-making body such as a Conference of Parties (CoP), an independent Scientific Committee and other necessary subsidiary bodies, with effective governance provisions.
State parties to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) will negotiate new targets to protect biodiversity at a Conference of the Parties (CoP) in May 2021. The target for marine biodiversity should be to protect at least 30% of the ocean through implemented highly and fully Protected Areas with the remaining 70% of the ocean being sustainably managed through equitable decision-making.
The ocean absorbs 90% of the excess heat in the atmosphere and over 30% of the carbon dioxide providing vital climate change mitigation but the climate crisis is profoundly damaging the ocean, attacking numerous aspects of marine life and function and fundamentally eroding its health and resilience.
We cannot currently prevent the ocean impacts caused by climate breakdown – the warming, acidification, sea level rise and deoxygenation – but we can remove the other stressors which undermine the ocean’s ability to withstand climate impacts. These stressors range from illegal, destructive and overfishing to extraction and mining, harmful aquaculture, and chemical, noise and plastic pollution. These same stressors also work to the detriment of coastal communities through their impact on ocean health.
We are taxing the health and immune system of the ocean through multiple stressors. Bringing an end to overfishing and pollution in all its forms, and preventing further biodiversity, ecosystem and habitat loss are essential measures within our reach.
Maintain momentum for ocean protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Build on opportunities presented within the discourse around a better-for-nature post-Covid world; ensure recognition of the importance of nature in human-wellbeing and that the ocean is automatically recognised as part of nature, and therefore included in dialogue and ultimately decision making.