The Ocean is the planet’s largest ecosystem, regulating the climate, and providing livelihoods for billions. But its health is in danger. The second UN Ocean Conference, due to take place in June, will be an important opportunity to redress the damage that mankind continues to inflict on marine life and livelihoods.
With delegates from Member States, non-governmental organizations, and universities attending, as well as entrepreneurs looking for ways to sustainably develop the “Blue Economy”, there are hopes that this event, taking place in the Portuguese city of Lisbon between 27 June and 1 July, will mark a new era for the Ocean.
1. It’s time to focus on solutions
The first Conference, in 2017, was seen as a game changer in alerting the world to the Ocean’s problems. According to Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Lisbon “is going to be about providing solutions to those problems”.
The event is designed to provide a space for the international community to push for the adoption of innovative, science-based solutions for the sustainable management of the oceans, including combating water acidification, pollution, illegal fishing and loss of habitats and biodiversity.
This year’s conference will also determine the level of ambition for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). The Decade will be a major theme in the conference, and will be the subject of several important events, laying out the vision of a healthier, more sustainable Ocean.
The UN has set 10 ocean-related targets to be achieved over this decade, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Organisation’s blueprint for a fairer future for people and the planet. They include action to prevent and reducing pollution and acidification, protecting ecosystems, regulating fisheries, and increasing scientific knowledge. At the conference, interactive dialogues will focus on how to address many of these issues.
The role of youth will be at the fore in Lisbon, with young entrepreneurs, working on innovative, science-based solutions to critical problems, an important part of the dialogue.
From 24 through 26 June, they will participate in the Youth and Innovation Forum, a platform aimed at helping young entrepreneurs and innovators to scale up their initiatives, projects and ideas, by providing professional training, and matchmaking with mentors, investors, the private sector, and government officials.
The forum will also include an "Innovathon," where teams of five participants will work together to create and propose new ocean solutions.
2. The stakes are high
The Ocean provides us all with oxygen, food, and livelihoods. It nurtures unimaginable biodiversity, and directly supports human well-being, through food and energy resources.
Besides being a life source, the ocean stabilizes the climate and stores carbon, acting as a giant sink for greenhouse gases.
According to UN data, around 680 million people live in low-lying coastal zones, rising to around one billion by 2050.
Plus, latest analysis estimates that 40 million people will be employed by ocean-based industries by the end of this decade.
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