On 9 June, the first UN Ocean Conference came to an end. Deemed a resounding success by President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, the conference achieved the adoption of a 14 point Call for Action.
The Call for Action signatories affirmed their “strong commitment to conserve and sustainably use our oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. They recognised the importance the oceans play in maintaining our ecosystem, through the supply of oxygen and the absorption of carbon dioxide, and therefore, recommitted to the Paris Agreement climate change targets. They affirmed the need to “enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea“. They committed to “accelerate actions to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds” and to “implement long-term and robust strategies to reduce the use of plastics and microplastics”.
Equally impressively, the conference resulted in over 1300 voluntary commitments having been registered. These are commitments on the part of governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders to uphold the aims of Sustainable Development Goal 14.
Furthermore, the delegates from China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines declared that they would begin tackling the problem of plastic waste from their countries ending up in the oceans. According to findings from the Helmholtz Centre in Leipzig, Germany, 75% of global plastic debris delivered by rivers to the sea comes from just 10 rivers, which are predominantly in Asia and reducing the plastic loads in these rivers by 50% would reduce global plastic inputs by 37%.
According to Andrew Hudson, head of the water and ocean governance progamme at the United Nations Development Programme, “This has been the biggest demonstration of interest in protecting our oceans – the biggest commitment to action. It’s really good, everybody is doing something,”.