Nations Need to Bind for Oceans

10 Nov 2015

By Agi Veres -

Collaborative mechanisms needed for the effective protection of the world’s oceans

As the cradle of life, oceans cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface and play a vital role in both national and global economies. They drive global ecosystems that make the Earth habitable for humankind, and yet, the world’s oceans are under severe strain and degradation. 

In China, the Gross Ocean Product (GOP) accounted for 9.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014, in total it is nearly worth RMB 600 billion. According to a report from State Oceanic Administration (SOA) of People’s Republic of China (PRC), the oceans in the world are worth at least $24 trillion, and the costal and marine environment’s goods and services could be up to $2.5 trillion per year.

Unprecedented population growth and expanding urbanization have encouraged more than 3 billion people in the world to live their life close to the seas. Nowadays, it is estimated that 3 out of 7 people on earth depend their livelihood on marine and costal resources.

According to China’s Ocean Development Report 2015, more than 15% of China’s coastal water has been found to be worse than grade IV, which indicates that the water quality is unsuitable for humans to have direct contact with, whether for drinking or swimming. The discharge of industrial and domestic waste, the extensive use of chemical fertilizers on the land, over-exploration of marine resources, unsustainable marine culture, as well as other activities, are all major threats towards the stability and sustainability of the marine environment in China. 

These problems, however, are not just unique to China. Ocean degradation has become a universal phenomenon. It has been reported that during the past 45 years the number of marine species has reduced by nearly 50%, mainly due to over-fishing and climate change. The problem of ocean acidification is becoming more prominent as the greenhouse gas emission in the world is mounting and dead zones in the oceans appear to be growing with decreasing oxygen levels in the water due to increasing pollution. Researchers have warned us that more than two-thirds of the annual value created by the ocean depends on maintaining their healthy condition, and the asset base has been diminishing rapidly due to the degeneration of the global marine environments.

No nation can ignore this global issue, nor can one nation fight this battle alone, due to the interconnected nature of oceans. Collective action among states, as well as negotiation of legal and institutional frameworks are now critical to address the stresses on oceans, to ensure the sustainable development and utilization of the marine resources, and to successfully protect the marine environment.

For this reason, when adopting the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN member states chose to include protecting our oceans in Goal 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensuring that a framework is in place to sustainably manage and mitigate the challenges facing our oceans.  

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which serves as the implementing agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has been working on projects that are building trust and mechanisms in various participating countries to catalyze the collective management of oceans. So far, 10 projects in the International Water focal area have been implemented with China’s participation to promote the collective management of the full range of policy, legal and institutional reform and investment that contribute to the sustainable use and maintenance of the marine ecosystem services.

With the goal of promoting cooperation between China and the countries along the marine silk road and building the “21st Century Maritime Silk Route Economic Belt” together, this year’s World Ocean Weeks (WOW) in Xiamen offers the opportunity to establish the bonds among nations that share the rights and responsibilities of the oceans. UNDP stands ready to work together with all the stakeholders to accelerate the actions to protect the oceans and create positive impacts, and to ensure the sustainable utilization and development of marine resources and economy.

With the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in place, the time to come together and protect our oceans is now. We cannot afford the loss of the cradle of life.

This article was originally published in China.org, 10th November. 

 

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