UN chief calls for more efforts to conserve world’s oceans

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. /VCG

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wants countries to step up their efforts to conserve the world’s marine resources even as he acknowledged the progress made since the last UN Ocean Conference.

Guterres cited progress on several fronts such as a treaty to address the global plastics crisis, a World Trade Organization agreement on ending harmful fishery subsidies and international cooperation to create marine protected areas for the recovery of fisheries and biodiversity.

FILE PHOTO: Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations. /CFP

This, however, he noted, was not enough as continued pollution and environmental degradation left the world facing what he called an “ocean emergency”.

Guterres said an estimated eight million tons of plastic waste entered the oceans annually and that plastic could “outweigh all the fish in the oceans by 2050”.

“But let’s have no illusions. Much more needs to be done by all of us, together,” Guterres told leaders gathered in the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

Guterres appealed to all stakeholders to invest in sustainable ocean economies for food, renewable energy and livelihoods which entails new levels of long-term funding.

Guterres called for a scaling-up of effective area-based conservation measures and integrated coastal zone management and making all new coastal infrastructure investments climate-resilient.

Guterres further urged nations to increase their investment in science and innovation to usher the world into a “new chapter” of global ocean action.

He also requested members of the shipping sector to commit to net zero emissions by 2050, and present “credible plans” to implement these commitments.

The UN has warned that the ocean is facing unprecedented threats as a result of human activities at a time when the world is battling several significant challenges including climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and global inequality.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)