The 2022 UN Ocean Conference, co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya, will take place in Lisbon, Portugal on 27 June to 1 July and will launch a new chapter for ocean action, driven by science, technology and innovation, to stop the decline of our shared ocean.
Science is showing us that the ocean is seriously degraded because of human activity. If present trends continue, the ocean’s health and ability to sustain life will only get worse.
Climate Emergency: The ocean is the greatest ally in our efforts to address the climate emergency. It generates 50% of the oxygen we need and absorbs 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions—and 90 percent of the excess heat. It is not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink - a vital buffer against the impacts of climate change. Climate action depends on a healthy ocean, and a healthy ocean requires urgent climate action.
Diminishing Biodiversity: More than half of the world’s marine species are threatened by extinction before 2100. Today, an estimated 60% of the world's major marine ecosystems that underpin livelihoods, have been degraded or are being used unsustainably.
Decade of Action: This is time for action. To address climate change, food insecurity, diseases and pandemics, diminishing biodiversity and economic inequality, we must act now to protect the state of the ocean’s ecology, economy and security. This is the decade to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development: We need to know more about the ocean. Our understanding of the ocean and its contribution to sustainable development is still limited.. New research is needed that is co-designed between scientists and policy makers than that focuses on sustainable development solutions. Existing data and knowledge needs to be made fully accessible. Infrastructure to support ocean science, including observations infrastructure, needs to be expanded and rendered sustainable. Capacity to implement and use ocean knowledge needs to be developed across geographies, genders and generations. Resources need to be unlocked. The Ocean Decade provides a framework to achieve this ambition.
- The world cannot afford to allow the decline in the ocean’s health to continue. Without urgent action, the ocean’s health and ability to sustain life will worsen, and will negatively impact people’s lives and livelihoods.
- Without urgent action to conserve, protect, restore and sustainable manage marine ecosystems, the ocean will not be able to continue its major role in limiting and adapting towards climate change, promote food security, and ensure economic prosperity.
- There is a need to rebuild humanity’s relationship with the ocean and place it firmly at the center of future sustainable development solutions.
- Strategies that exist that can protect the state of the ocean’s ecology, economy and security, need to be implemented.
- Support to innovative ocean science embracing all ocean actors is required to develop actions based on knowledge and understanding for the ocean we need.
Why the Ocean Matters
- The ocean and coastal ecosystems sit at the nexus of the triple planetary crisis, the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the pollution and waste crisis.
- The ocean plays a critical life-sustaining role in safeguarding the health of our planet. It produces half of the oxygen produced on earth, it delivers food, controls the weather, absorbs one quarter of the excess carbon emissions every year, helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the atmosphere.
- The ocean’s resistance and resilience are not infinite. We should no longer assume that the ocean can continue absorbing the effects of unsustainable human activities endlessly and still continue providing its vital services.
- The ocean is in trouble. It is getting warmer, more acidic and holds less oxygen - changes that are drastically limiting its ability to sustain life underwater and on land as known. Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, effectively negative emissions, are needed to limit and reverse the decline in the health of the ocean.
- Although at risk, the ocean is also central to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and stabilizing the earth’s climate. Ocean-based climate action, backed by political will and investment in science and technology, will allow the ocean to become our biggest ally in the fight against climate change.
- At COP26, countries acknowledged that efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C were off track, and that the consequences of failing to meet that goal threatened lives and livelihoods around the world.
- Countries, at COP 26, stressed the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including in forests, the ocean and the cryosphere, and the protection of biodiversity when taking action to address climate change.
- The ocean plays a fundamental role in our efforts to address climate change, economic growth and contributes to people’s health and wellbeing. But the impacts of human activities are degrading the health of the ocean through climate change, pollution, loss of natural habitat and other destructive practices. Major shifts in policies and decisions towards science informing ocean positive action are needed to manage the ocean and its resources sustainably – such as ambitious national climate plans that include ocean action; critical nature-based solutions that nurture rather than exploit; strong international treaties for better ocean governance; fully protected marine areas and an accountable and responsible blue economy.
- We have solutions that can help us address climate change. And many of these solutions can help protect our ocean. Climate action is ocean action, which is also SDG action. It is essential that we manage, sustainably use, protect and conserve the ocean resources.
- New innovative science addressing the climate change mitigation and adaptation of marine ecosystems will help to identify a sustainable pathway for the ocean and humanity together.
Solutions for a Healthy Planet
- Solutions exist that can help us restore the health of the ocean. But it will require action from all parts of society, from world leaders to the person in the street.
- Momentum is building for ocean action, and more people, especially youth, mobilizing to do their part to reverse the decline in ocean health.
- The Ocean Conference in 2017 alone catalyzed more than 1,600 commitments to act that are changing the global approach to the management and conservation of the ocean.
- It’s in everyone’s interest to take ocean action. Governments, industries, civil society and experts must join forces to develop and implement ocean solutions around the world.
- Everyone can make a difference – for example, we can choose not to buy single-use plastic products and consume seafood only from sustainable and legally caught stocks.
- We can also be more determined to reduce our carbon footprint. We must all work to ensure a carbon-neutral world by 2050.
- We need to go further and faster to ensure that we protect our ocean, our people and our planet.
Data, Science, Innovation
A vast majority of the ocean and its processes remain unmapped, unobserved, unexplored and unexplained, with consequently many avenues of positive ocean action unknown.
Our understanding of the ocean and its contribution to sustainable development largely depends on our capacity to conduct effective ocean science - through research and sustained observations, supported by adequate infrastructure, capacity and investment.
Yet, less than 2% of the total research and development expenditures of governments worldwide goes towards ocean science.
Science-driven ocean solutions exist in some sectors–from green shipping to sustainable fisheries to off-shore renewable energy. But without equitable access to knowledge, resources and infrastructure such solutions cannot achieve the scale of impact needed to redress the decline.
Our understanding of the ocean should also lead to a step change in humanity’s relationship with the ocean. Ocean literacy for children and youth, as well as for industry, policy makers and government will be essential to triggering individual and institutional behavior change.
The Ocean Decade provides a convening framework for diverse actors across natural and social science disciplines and holders of indigenous and local knowledge to co-design and co-deliver the science we need for the ocean we want. To achieve the ocean science revolution that we need innovative partnerships will be needed across governments, industry, philanthropy, and the scientific community.