The ocean covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, is the planet’s largest biosphere, and is home to up to 80 percent of all life in the world. It generates 50 percent of the oxygen we need, absorbs 25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and captures 90 percent of the additional heat generated from those emissions. It is not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink – a vital buffer against the impacts of climate change.
It nurtures unimaginable biodiversity and produces food, jobs, mineral and energy resources needed for life on the planet to survive and thrive. There is a great deal we still do not know about the ocean but there are many reasons why we need to manage it sustainably – as set out in the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.
The science is clear – the ocean is facing unprecedented threats as a result of human activities. Its health and ability to sustain life will only get worse as the world population grows and human activities increase. If we want to address some of the most defining issues of our time such as climate change, food insecurity, diseases and pandemics, diminishing biodiversity, economic inequality and even conflicts and strife, we must act now to protect the state of our ocean.
Implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, Partnerships and Solutions
The Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, comes at a critical time as the world is seeking to address the many of the deep-rooted problems of our societies laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and which will require major structural transformations and common shared solutions that are anchored in the SDGs. To mobilize action, the Conference will seek to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.
Solutions for a sustainably managed ocean involve green technology and innovative uses of marine resources. They also include addressing the threats to health, ecology, economy and governance of the ocean – acidification, marine litter and pollution, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and the loss of habitats and biodiversity.
The Governments of Kenya and Portugal will co-host the Ocean Conference.
Liu Zhenmin, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, will serve as the Secretary-General of the Conference, and Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, will serve as the Special Adviser to the Presidents of the Ocean Conference on the ocean and legal matters.
In 2017, the United Nations Secretary-General Guterres appointed Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji as his Special Envoy for the Ocean, aiming at galvanizing concerted efforts to follow up on the outcomes of the 2017 United Nations Ocean Conference, maintaining the momentum for action to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water
Adopted in 2015 as an integral aspect of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its set of 17 transformative goals, Goal 14 stresses the need to conserve and sustainably use the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources.
Advancement of Goal 14 is guided by specific targets that focus on an array of ocean issues, including reducing marine pollution, protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, minimizing acidification, ending illegal and over-fishing, increasing investment in scientific knowledge and marine technology, and respecting international law that calls for the safe and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources.
UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021 – 2030
A vast majority of the ocean remains unmapped, unobserved and unexplored. Our understanding of the ocean and its contribution to sustainability largely depends on our capacity to conduct effective ocean science – through research and sustained observations, supported by adequate infrastructures and investments.
The Decade provides a common framework to ensure that ocean science can fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage the ocean and more particularly to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – through the creation of a new foundation, across the science-policy interface, to strengthen the management of the ocean and coasts for the benefit of humanity.