Our Global War on Nature is Suicidal, Our Ocean Should Be Better Managed

World leaders spoke out yesterday on the state of the planet and the message was clear — we must stop taking the natural world for granted.  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “the state of the planet is broken,” our attitude about it is “suicidal,” and then he spent more than 10 minutes cataloging our global “crimes against nature.”  At the same time, a high-level panel of 14 global leaders who studied the state of the ocean said that the ocean is critical to our future health and well-being and they “committed to sustainable ocean management and transformational policies that meet the test the report puts forward: protecting, producing and prospering from the ocean.”

Why This Matters:  Guterres implored the world to make 2021 a “leap” year — a year in which individuals, businesses, and governments make a “quantum leap” towards carbon neutrality, and when more women leaders are at the table and they take decisive action to begin to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. It was equal parts straight talk and pep talk. Was he talking to the U.S.’ new leaders?  Meanwhile, the high-level panel of ocean leaders took a more upbeat approach — arguing that a “recipe” of equal parts ocean protection, production, and equitable sharing of the ocean’s prosperity will ensure ocean health for future generations.

Ocean Panel Report

The High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) proposed a new ocean action agenda for building a sustainable ocean economy in which all three of these objectives —  protection, production, and equitable prosperity — are achieved.  The leaders pledged to take actions designed to transform how oceans are protected, used, and use the ocean and ultimately sustainably managed.  The Panel’s members are leaders of many of the major ocean nations across the globe such as Australia, Japan, Norway, Indonesia, Mexico, and Portugal.  They joined a growing group of government leaders who have committed to protecting 30% of the world’s ocean territory by 2030.  As we have reported, numerous recent studies have shown that protecting the ocean more would yield benefits that exceed costs by at least five to one, and would support 30 million jobs in ecotourism and sustainable fishing. And a transition to a nature-positive economy could generate up to $10.1 trillion in annual business value and create 395 million jobs by 2030.  Enric Sala, Explorer in Residence, National Geographic explained that currently the “fisheries sector and other ocean-based industries treat the ocean like a bank account where everybody withdraws but nobody makes a deposit, the establishment of 30% of the ocean into marine protected areas (MPAs) will restore vibrant ocean life, radically increase fish stocks, and help local and regional economies thrive.”

World Meteorological Organization’s Report

Guterres’ speech was in reaction to a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report issued yesterday that found that 2020’s annual average temperature will be about 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the last half of the 1800s. The start of the industrial revolution is the time that scientists use as a baseline for comparing the amount of warming caused by heat-trapping gases from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas.  According to the WMO, 2020 will be one of the three hottest years on record.  The Paris climate accord set a goal of not exceeding 1.5-degree (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming since pre-industrial times.

To Go Deeper: Watch the UN Secretary General’s speech here, and read the High-Level Ocean Panel Report here.

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