Why the ocean should be on the G7 agenda

The objective of the expert meeting is to demonstrate to the countries (members and guests) participating in the G7 that civil society actors are ready to commit themselves to protect the ocean. Civil society actors are also calling on G7 leaders to do the same from 24-26 August. [Rich Carey/Shutterstock]

Surfrider Europe, a French organisation fighting for clean oceans,  is organising an event ahead of the G7 summit in France. The aim is to call for incorporating ocean protection into international negotiations, particularly those concerning climate change. EURACTIV’s partner la Tribune reports.

The ocean’s role as a climate regulator is becoming increasingly evident and will be the subject of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) end-of-September special report.

Today, oceans are threatened by plastic pollution, acidification produced by the absorption of large quantities of CO2, and the loss of biodiversity…

However, before the Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted in 2015, the ocean had never been featured in international climate treaties.

“And in the Paris Agreement, it only appears in the preamble and not in the articles,” said Surfrider France’s spokesperson, Anditia Citores.

Oceans’ role highlighted as global warming ‘regulator’

The Ocean and Climate Platform, a civil society group, has launched an appeal to recognise the vital role played by oceans in regulating global warming ahead of the COP 21 UN climate talks in Paris later this year. EURACTIV France reports

The association, whose headquarters are located in Biarritz, France, has decided to take advantage of the G7 summit’s geographical proximity to organise four days of international conferences on the ocean.

Discussions will also centre around the ocean’s role in reducing inequalities (particularly climate inequalities), which is the overall theme of the summit hosted by France.

It is within the Ocean Pavilion in Biarritz (neither as part of an anti-G7 event starting on 21 August nor as part of the G7 summit itself, which begins later) that a hundred experts coordinated by Surfrider will meet.

From 20-23 August, these experts will cover four main themes: sustainable tourism and low impact water sports, biodiversity, ocean pollution by plastic, and climate.

The objective of the expert meeting is to demonstrate to the countries (members and guests) participating in the G7 summit that civil society actors are ready to commit themselves to protecting the ocean. Civil society actors are also calling on G7 leaders to do the same from 24-26 August.

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A blue COP25 in Santiago de Chile

Among the concrete objectives that Surfrider intends to address are the precise definition of marine protected areas, at least with regard to the areas and quantities covered.

Besides, Surfrider is also calling for the reduction of CO2 emissions from maritime transport, and its total decarbonisation by 2050.

Putting the ocean on the agenda of international climate negotiations will make it possible to allocate funds (for example from the UN Green Climate Fund) toward dedicated actions, but also to include concrete and quantified measures and timelines in the resolutions.

Many events planned in the coming months are in Surfrider’s sights. First the climate summit in New York in September, then COP25 in Santiago de Chile in December. Chile already announced that this year’s COP25 would be a blue one.

This means that more attention will be paid to the issue, as it will likely be featured among so-called ‘side-events’, which are typically organised on the margins of negotiations. During these, it cannot always be guaranteed that oceans will be discussed more than before.

Commitments on the ocean and CO2

The objective of the so-called ‘Ocean Call’ that will result from these four days coordinated by Surfrider is for states to develop commitments on the oceans. Countries have already committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through their NDCs (nationally determined contributions), and Surfrider hopes they do the same for oceans.

To help them do so, they have access to the “Ocean and Climate” platform, a toolbox created by the UN.

Surfrider is already working in this direction with local authorities and companies. Commitments have already been made in France by the City of Paris (on water quality and plastic reduction for the Olympic Games), Aquitaine (on pesticides) and Marseille (on waste).

“Companies in the textile, cosmetics and wine sectors are also committed to concrete, dated and quantified objectives,” Anditia Citores pointed out.

Another project in the focus of ocean advocates is making sure oceans are on the agenda of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) congress in Marseille in 2020.

Ocean advocates support the introduction of national plastics conventions, which could be adopted by 2025 and will already be discussed during the next UN Environment Assembly in 2021. France’s Sustainability Minister Brune Poirson was appointed vice-president of the assembly in March 2019.

At the end of these four days, the ‘Ocean Call’, an official statement co-signed by all mobilised stakeholders, will be ready. The statement will include the challenges and proposals for concrete commitments for the heads of state present at the summit to consider.

Jean-Pierre Thébaut, the ambassador in charge of preparing for the French presidency of the G7, will receive the official declaration a day after it has been published, on the day the G7 launches.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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