30 June 2022, Lisbon Portugal, UNOC2022 - The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) delegation at the Second United Nations Ocean Conference took global leaders on a journey down memory lane on Thursday.
Speaking during the plenary session at the Altice Arena in Lisbon Portugal, FSM’s Head of Delegation, Mr Jeem Lippwe told the story of Portuguese navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, and his small fleet who entered a part of the ocean unfamiliar to him and his crew in the 16th century. Due to the calmness of the ocean at the time, Magellan called the body of water “pacific.” Unbeknownst to him, the largest part of the global Ocean was home to Pacific ancestors, having settled the islands scattered through out it centuries earlier.
Fast forward to today, things have changed, dramatically. While populations have increased, the once clean and calm ocean is now home to conglomerates of plastic garbage, ghost drift nets and abandoned fishing gear, nuclear waste, oil slicks and ship wrecks of all kinds littering. What’s more, illegal fishing boats ply the waters of Pacific countries putting food security at risk. “Imagine what Magellan and his crew would say?” Mr Lippwe asked. “Imagine what our ancestors would say?”
According to FSM’s Head of Delegation, it is time for the international community to go further and collectively do more to conserve our Ocean.
“We need the international community to step up the level of mitigation ambition in NDCs in order to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We also know that the Ocean provides another integral service - sequestering and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said Mr Lippwe. “The Ocean is thus an essential piece of the solution to global climate change. Seagrasses, mangrove forests, and coastal wetlands store significant amounts of carbon dioxide, and their preservation and restoration hold great potential to capture CO2 and keep it out of the atmosphere.”
According to a 2019 High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy report, protecting and restoring these ecosystems globally, alongside seaweed farming, could reduce emissions by as much as 1.4 billion tons of CO2-equivalent emissions annually by 2050.
“Without distracting from the critical need for the international community to engage in deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at their sources, particularly in this current critical decade, and without further harming the Ocean and its resources, we need to protect and enhance the Ocean’s ability to act as a global “carbon sink”. The scientific community has estimated that the Ocean absorbed 90% of the excessive heat generated by human activities since the industrial revolution.”
The UN Ocean Conference was reminded that for Small Island Developing State like Micronesia, the Ocean is central to their cultural heritage, traditional practices, and identity.
“The adverse impacts of climate change, and related phenomena such as ocean acidification, put our sustainable development in danger and threatens our borders and ultimately the existence of a number of island states.”
The response must be all encompassing, from local, regional and international commitments.
“In the Federated States of Micronesia and the broader Pacific, as well as in many other coastal States and communities around the world, we use both the best available scientific information and the relevant traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to inform us on how to keep the balance between conservation and sustainable use of the Ocean and its resources,” the meeting said. “We have seen the same focus in other fora, such as BBNJ, the CBD and the UNFCCC. Science and traditional knowledge complement each other, and we will all benefit from having the fullest possible base of knowledge and information about the Ocean to guide our management efforts.”
On a regional level, the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum proclaimed on behalf of all Forum Members that “our maritime zones, as established and notified to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in accordance with the Convention, and the rights and entitlements that flow from them, shall continue to apply, without reduction, notwithstanding any physical changes connected to climate change-related sea-level rise.”
Internationally, FSM looks forward to the finalisation of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
“The Pacific Ocean is one of the last sustainable tuna fishing grounds in the world, and conservation works hand in hand with our sustainable use efforts, mindful of our dependence on fisheries for food as well as income from the careful exploitation of our fish stocks,” said Mr Lippwe. “Certain subsidies harm such conservation and sustainable use efforts.”
The second UN Ocean Conference is co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal. The meeting seeks to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.
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