27 June 2022, Lisbon Portugal, UNOC2022 - Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, has provided the perfect backdrop for a global gathering of world leaders, including many from the Pacific region, in a bid to protect the world’s oceans.
The United Nations Oceans Conference 2022, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal at the Altice Arena, opened on Monday with a strengthened call for immediate action to protect the ocean from unprecedented threats as a result of human activities.
Portuguese President, His Excellency Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said UNOC 2022 is happening at the right place at the right time. He called for urgent and targeted actions to manage the ocean more sustainably, noting the need to build bridges with all stakeholders to strengthen global cooperation to achieve the aspirations of UNOC.
“We are in Lisbon at the right time because too much time we have lost; it is time to give hope a chance once again before it’s too late,” he said. “The impact of COVID-19 cannot be an excuse for the challenges before us. This must be the conference of re-confinement and ambition, at the right place at the right time with the right approach.”
The conference recognises that the ocean is not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink, which provides a vital buffer against the impacts of climate change.
Kenyan President and the Conference’s Co-Chair, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, recalled that the first UNOC, co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden in New York, raised alarm on the urgent need to scale up action on the SDG 14 to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
“We want to look back to Lisbon as a place where we bent the arch of history and boldly chose to sustainably produce and protect our oceans,” His Excellency Kenyatta said. “It is our expectation therefore that this conference will shift gear from proposals to actions, actions that are driven by science, technology and innovation. We expect to hear about solutions, examples of nature-based solutions. We expect to understand the linkages between oceans, climate change and pollution… as well as financing options and pathways.”
The co-Chair reminded the meeting that the ocean is the most underappreciated resource on the planet and that SDG 14 is the “most underfunded” of all the SDGs.
“The burden of choice lies with each and every one of us,” he challenged the leaders. “Over the last decade, we’ve accumulated sufficient knowledge of all the risks and opportunities and a deeper understanding of actions we should take. We urgently need to build an ocean-based economy where effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand in hand. We must engage all stakeholders, as part of that, youth must be our torchbearers in action.”
The theme of the second UN Ocean Conference is “Scaling up Ocean Action Based on Science and Innovation for the Implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, Partnerships and Solutions.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated the need for drastic urgent action reminding us that the deteriorating state of the ocean does not immune any country regardless of size. He said low-lying countries, many in the Pacific region, are already facing multiple challenges.
“We cannot have a healthy planet without a healthy ocean,” he said. “Our failure to care for the ocean will have a rippling effect across the entire 2030 Agenda.”
The Ocean Conference comes at a critical time as the world is seeking to address many of the deep-rooted problems 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 mobilise action, the Conference will seek to propel much-needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.
The conference continues.
The Pacific Islands are represented by a strong contingent which includes the Leaders from Fiji, Palau and Tonga. Also present are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) will provide more Pacific news from the UNOC2022.
For more on the UN Ocean Conference 2022 hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July please visit https://www.un.org/en/conferences/ocean2022