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A Critical Moment for Our Ocean


The United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry attends Portugal's Council of State, invited by Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, in Cascais, outside Lisbon, Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

In his opening speech at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, UN Secretary General António Guterres declared that the world’s ocean is in bad shape.

A Critical Moment For Our Ocean
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In his opening speech at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, UN Secretary General António Guterres declared that the world’s ocean is in bad shape. “We have taken the ocean for granted and today we face what I would call an ocean emergency,” he said.

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry agrees, noting that “This is a critical moment for our ocean.”

Indeed, the statistics are telling. The ocean absorbs about 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere each year due to human activities, leading to ocean acidification. By 2050, by weight there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean. … Over one-third of fish stocks are overfished. And only 1.2 percent of the high seas that lie beyond territorial limits is protected.

“Lives are at stake. Our ocean touches every aspect of our lives, from the air we breathe to the food we eat,” said Secretary Kerry.
“We need to realize that no conversation about the ocean is about the ocean alone. It’s about climate.”

“You cannot separate the ocean from the climate crisis, and none of the climate crisis can be dealt with without the ocean solutions, and vice versa. Harmful emissions are making our ocean warmer, more acidic, less productive, driving rising sea levels. We cannot solve the ocean crisis without solving the emissions.”

“At the same time, the ocean is a source of climate solutions,” said Secretary Kerry. “We need to conserve and protect the coastal and marine ecosystems that store carbon and protect our coastlines—and strengthen governance of marine protected areas.”

“We secondly finalize an ambitious and effective agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction – which would create, for the first time, a coordinated and cross-sectional approach to establishing high seas marine protected areas.”

“Third, we must stop the reckless practice of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing,” said Mr. Kerry. “IUU fishing is damaging our ocean, undermining maritime security, and endangering the law-abiding fishers and communities.”

And finally, “This must be the moment that we advance agreement on plastic pollution at every level.”

“The U.N. mandate … to launch multilateral negotiations on a global and legally binding agreement—is more than welcome.”

Mr. Kerry said this must be one of the highest priorities of the U.N. system.

“Every one of these problems is human-created—and solving them is a matter of will power,” said Secretary Kerry. “We can win this battle.”

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