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UN Secretary General Declares ‘Ocean Emergency’ At Lisbon Conference


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UN Secretary General Declares ‘Ocean Emergency’ At Lisbon Conference

UN Secretary General António Guterres has declared that the world is currently experiencing an ‘Ocean Emergency’. He made the declaration during the five-day UN Ocean Conference held in Lisbon, Portugal, from June 27 to July 1. Around 7,000 people, including heads of state, leaders, scientists, and NGOs are attending the conference. Moreover, Guterres urged Governments to take action to restore the health of the oceans, and encouraged them to allocate more funds to create a sustainable economic model for the same.

“Sadly, we have taken the ocean for granted,” he said, according to a video posted by Reuters. “And today, we face what I would call an ‘ocean emergency’. We must turn the tide.”

“Global heating is pushing ocean temperatures to record levels, creating fiercer and more frequent storms. Sea levels are rising. Low-lying island nations face inundation, as do many major coastal cities in the world. And some 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year. Without drastic action, this plastic would outweigh all the fish in the oceans by 2050,” he said in the Reuters video.

In March, the UN member states faced criticism for failing to finalise the High Seas Treaty, which many hailed as the only hope to protect the open seas. According to Reuters, when reporters at the conference asked him what obstacles were stopping member nations from coming to an agreement, he said, “Egoism.” “Some people still think they are powerful enough to think international waters should be theirs,” Reuters quoted him. 

Further, he said that there was a need for symbiotic business models to assist the oceans in producing more food and generating more renewable energy. This would require new levels of long term funding.

Guterres also took to Twitter to address the issue:

However, whether the Secretary General’s words and the discussions at the conference will bear fruit, is yet to be seen. Like the High Seas Treaty for instance, there have been several international level deliberations regarding climate change and ocean protection. Another recent significant event was the COP26. But very few Governments have taken action in line with the goals set at these conferences.

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