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UN meeting sees bolt of pledges to protect ailing oceans

#meeting #sees #bolt #pledges #protect #ailing #oceans

A major UN conference on how to restore the world’s ailing health to the world’s oceans began this week in Lisbon with a barrage of promises to expand marine protected areas, ban deep-sea mining and tackle illegal fishing.

UN chief Antonio Guterres set the tone for the five-day meeting on Monday by warning that the world’s oceans are in deep crisis.

“Today we face what I would call a marine emergency,” he told thousands of policymakers, experts and advocates, detailing how oceans have been damaged by climate change and pollution.

“The ocean is not a dump. He is not a source of infinite plunder. It is a fragile system that we all depend on.”

Surangel Whipps, Jr., President of the Pacific island nation of Palau, asked world leaders to join a moratorium on extracting rare earth metals from the sea floor.

“Deep-sea mining threatens the integrity of our marine habitat and should be stopped as much as possible,” he said, flanked by Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

Indigenous leader Debbie Ngawera-Packer, a member of New Zealand’s parliament, told conference attendees she has tabled a bill calling for such a moratorium on her country’s waters.

Companies looking to mine so-called polymetallic nodules, which contain manganese, cobalt and nickel, say they are a greener source of minerals needed to build electric vehicle batteries.

Scientists counter that seafloor ecosystems are fragile at depth and could take decades or longer to heal once disturbed.

“Mining, wherever it occurs, is known to have environmental costs,” said former US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief scientist Sylvia Earle.

– ‘No-Take’ Zones –

“At least on land we can monitor, detect and fix problems and minimize the damage. Six thousand meters (20,000 feet) below the surface, who is watching?”

A so-called high-ambition coalition – backing a proposal to designate 30 per cent of the planet’s land and sea surface as protected areas by 2030 – has swelled to 100 nations, British Foreign Secretary Zac Goldsmith announced at a side event.

Less than 10 percent of the world’s oceans are currently protected.

The “30 x 30” plan could be the cornerstone of a deal to be finalized at a UN biodiversity summit in Montreal in December.

Nearly a quarter billion dollars in government, development bank and philanthropic funding to protect marine and terrestrial ecosystems in Colombia announced last week could be the blueprint for other countries.

“Working with scientists, we decided to protect 30 percent of our marine area and we did it,” outgoing Colombian President Ivan Duque told AFP.

More than half of the newly protected marine areas will be “no-take” zones, closed to fishing, mining, drilling or other extractive activities, he said.

The United States, European Union countries, Mexico, Canada, Japan and India have joined the 30 x 30 campaign, while China, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil have yet to do so.

Steps were also taken on Monday to tackle illegal fishing, another issue on the table at the long-delayed UN Oceanic Conference originally scheduled for April 2020.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden issued a national security memorandum to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and related labor abuse.

– Wreaking havoc –

The goal is to “ensure that seafood products entering the US market are caught in accordance with international and national rules,” a senior administration official told reporters.

A report by the International Trade Commission found that in 2019 the United States imported $2.4 billion worth of seafood derived from IUU fishing.

“The ocean is the most underestimated resource on our planet,” said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the conference, flanked by Portuguese President Antonio Costa.

Oceans support 80 percent of life on Earth and produce 50 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere.

They also absorb a quarter of the CO2 pollution and 90 percent of the excess heat from global warming, keeping the planet livable for life on land.

But these services are associated with costs.

Seawater has become acidic, threatening aquatic food chains and the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon. Global warming has produced massive ocean heat waves that are destroying valuable coral reefs and expanding dead zones without oxygen.

“We are just beginning to understand the extent to which climate change will have devastating effects on ocean health,” said Charlotte de Fontaubert, the World Bank’s global head for the blue economy.

Making things worse, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), there is an endless barrage of pollution, including a garbage truck’s worth of plastic every minute.

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#meeting #sees #bolt #pledges #protect #ailing #oceans

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