UN Ocean Conference 2022: Save our Ocean, Protect our Future

The second UN Ocean Conference is currently taking place in Lisbon, Portugal. As part of the continued effort to solve the problems created by climate change and the unprecedented effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference is held to set up massive structural changes and consensus-shared solutions centred on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Conference will endeavour to promote much-needed science-based creative ideas targeted at beginning a new chapter of global ocean action in order to organize action.

The ocean spans 70% of the Earth’s surface, is the biggest biosphere, and is home to up to 80% of all species on the planet. It produces half of the oxygen we require, absorbs a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions, and absorbs 90% of the excess heat created by those emissions. It is not just the planet’s lungs, but also its greatest carbon sink, providing an important buffer against the effects of climate change. It supports inconceivable biodiversity and generates the food, employment, minerals, and energy resources required for life on Earth to exist and prosper. There is still much we don’t know about the ocean, but there are several reasons why we must manage it sustainably.

The conference began with an address from the mayor of Lisbon. He spoke with authority and hope, willing that this conference be one looked upon kindly in future as one that began a great journey for our world. He also spoke about how the solutions are important to start from the ground. From macro goals to concrete ideas, involving citizens in designing and implementing the ideas. Every part of society is required to change our society positively.

As the conference went on, presidents of the two host nations were elected as presidents of the conference: President Uhuru Kenyata of Kenya and President Marcelo Nuno Duarte Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal. After they were introduced and gave their opening remarks, the conference began in earnest and a number of notable speakers gave speeches addressing proposed measures for preserving better oceans. A common and expected theme was climate change. The effect of climate change on oceans and biomes is very well documented, and to tackle the negative change countries need to unite with the aid of the UN to foster measures that will heal our world, stop climate change and preserve the integrity of our oceans. After the UN Secretary-General gave his speech, President of the 76th session of the General Assembly Abdallah Shahid also spoke and highlighted the need for the ideas and efforts of women in the field to be well recognised and implemented.

Green technologies and creative uses of marine resources are among the solutions for a sustainably managed ocean. They also include tackling risks to the ocean’s health, ecology, economics, and governance, such as acidification, marine trash and pollution, illicit, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and habitat and biodiversity loss.

The research is clear: human activities are posing unprecedented hazards to the ocean. Its health and ability to support life will deteriorate as the world population expands and human activities expand. If we are to solve some of our time’s most defining concerns, such as climate change, food insecurity, illnesses and pandemics, declining biodiversity, economic disparity, and even conflicts and turmoil, we must act now to safeguard the state of our ocean.

The vast bulk of the ocean has yet to be charted, observed, or explored. Our understanding of the ocean and its contribution to sustainability is heavily reliant on our ability to undertake successful ocean science – via research and long-term observations backed up by suitable infrastructure and funding.

This Decade establishes a common framework to ensure that ocean science can fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage the ocean and, in particular, to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – by establishing a new foundation across the science-policy interface to strengthen ocean and coast management for the benefit of humanity.

Regarding modern technological measures, UNESCO is also playing a big part. Following the introduction of its Ocean Literacy Toolkit for Policymakers, UNESCO has set an ambitious aim of incorporating ocean education into all of its Member States’ national curricula by 2025. The question of how education can continue outside of the classroom, and how children and governments can be further encouraged to take the affairs of the ocean seriously all came up. Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, moderated a conversation with UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Oskar Metsavaht and Maya Gabeira, UNESCO Champion for the Ocean and Youth, to highlight the significance of ocean education in enabling future generations to create the ocean we need.

The rest of the opening day remarks were on welcoming speeches and chagrins to make great use of the conference, highlighting the need for innovation in modern technological solutions. Dignitaries like the President of Columbia, President of the Council of State of Libya, President of Ghana, President of Equatorial Guinea, Vice President of Tanzania and so on were all in attendance in persons. A great step that gives credence to the levity of concern and intentionality given to the conference, its goals and expected solutions proffered. As the conference continues, the world watches keenly in anticipation of what solutions and measures might be learnt to help better take care of our oceans.

According to the UN, the meeting will also issue a statement that, while not obligatory on its signatories, might assist implement and facilitate the protection and conservation of oceans and their resources. The declaration is scheduled to be approved on Friday, the final day of the conference.

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Olivier Noudjalbaye Dedingar

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