By Maria Sargren, Sweden’s ambassador to Cambodia.
The ocean is amazing. It covers almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the Earth’s water. Billions of people depend on the ocean for their income and nutrition, not least in developing countries.
The ocean is home to almost 200,000 identified species, although the actual figures are thought to be in the millions. The ocean has long been our best friend in the battle against climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide and heat that humans have released into the atmosphere. Every second breath we take is generated by the ocean.
But unfortunately the world’s oceans are in a critical condition. Overfishing, litter and acidification threaten both the ocean and people. Human activity is responsible for this state of affairs. It must therefore also be human activity that turns this around.
Sweden and Fiji have jointly taken the initiative for the UN Ocean Conference in New York to support efforts to save the world’s oceans and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on oceans, seas and marine resources Goal 14 of the UN 2030 Agenda. The sustainable marine goal is central to the entire UN development agenda and is closely linked to other goals, such as poverty reduction, food security, climate action, sustainable production and consumption, and a secure supply of clean water.
Now that all of the agreements are in place, they must be implemented. The Ocean Conference aims to ensure we move from words to deeds.
The conference has ambitious goals and will result in a joint “Call for Action” to advance efforts towards a sustainable ocean. Another important aspect are the partnership dialogues where leading global stakeholders, such as business, civil society and the knowledge-based society, contribute to innovative solutions to solve major common challenges. But the conference will also result in voluntary commitments whereby Member States, civil society and the private sector take initiatives to make individual contributions to the implementation of Goal 14.
If we do not succeed in reversing the trend soon, we can expect major problems in the future. Billions of people rely on fish as a major source of food and livelihood. Excessive fishing means that the most resilient species take over, which can lead to jellyfish invasions and even more pressure on edible fish stocks.
Animals and ultimately people will also suffer as the oceans are being filled with increasing amounts of plastic, which is broken down into microparticles that could eventually end up on our plates.
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Millennium Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda are examples of Member States finding joint solutions to global problems.
The UN Ocean Conference, which runs through June 9, will provide us with the opportunity to change tack and reverse the negative trend. A clean and living ocean is a prerequisite for the survival of us all.