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Ocean Action on Global Agenda as Negotiations to Save Biodiversity Deepen

Delegates say the survival of humanity is interlinked with the sustainable use of ocean and marine biodiversity resources. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Delegates say the survival of humanity is interlinked with the sustainable use of ocean and marine biodiversity resources. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

NAIROBI, May 15 2024 (IPS) - The oceans are as fascinating as they are mysterious. Home to the largest animals to ever live on Earth and billions of the tiniest, the top 100 meters of the open oceans host the majority of sea life, such as fish, turtles, and marine mammals. But there is another world far below the surface. In the belly of the ocean, there are seamounts—underwater mountains that rise 1,000 meters or more from the seafloor.

It is within this context that negotiations on critical science, technical skills, and technology deepened on the second day of the 26th session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Putting ocean action on the global agenda is a top priority to ensure conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity. Emphasizing an urgent need for further work on ecologically or biologically significant marine areas.

“The survival of humanity is interlinked with the sustainable use of ocean and marine biodiversity resources. We rely on the ocean for food, relaxation, and inspiration. But now the ocean is under threat, and that threat is being passed on to our lives on land. We have to invest time, money, and every resource possible to save our oceans and, by doing so, save ourselves. Our biggest revenue comes from fisheries, and now we have to worry about rising sea level as we are a low-lying island,” Eleala Avanitele from the Forest Peoples Program in Tuvalu told IPS.

Scientists warn that Tuvalu, the fourth-smallest country in the world, is sinking due to its vulnerability to rising sea levels, as the nation comprises nine low-lying coral atolls and islands. Across the globe, the world is in a crisis as oceans provide 50 percent of all oxygen on Earth and 50 to 80 percent of all life on Earth. This life is now at stake.

Thus far, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, also known as the Biodiversity Plan, has been front and centre during ongoing negotiations, as it is a strategic plan for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a global agreement that covers all aspects of biological diversity and is considered a framework for governments and the whole of society.

Harrison Ajebe Nnoko Ngaaje from Ajemalebu Self Help (Ajesh) in Cameroon told IPS that his organization is a CSO registered in Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania, and the USA to create synergies and collaboration within and beyond the continent for the restoration, protection, and sustainable management of key biodiversity areas.

“Conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity is very critical to Cameroon due to its vast and unique ecosystem and biodiversity. Limbe Beach, for instance, has shiny black sandy beaches made of lava sand from the Mt. Cameroon eruptions, an active volcano in the south-west region of Cameroon. We have mangroves under serious threat of degradation. Ajesh is strongly focused on marine protected area management and the conservation of marine aquatic ecosystems.”

More than half of all marine species could be in danger of extinction by 2100. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s marine ecosystems have been altered or handled unsustainably. Marine, coastal, and island biodiversity were discussed within the context of the Biodiversity Plan. Target 3 of the Plan aims to ensure and enable that by 2030 at least 30 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas, and of marine and coastal areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed.

The main goal of the SBSTTA discussions was to find and fix areas that need more attention under the Convention in order to help carry out the Biodiversity Plan for marine, coastal, and island biodiversity.

Despite the Conference of the Parties adopting the program of work on marine and coastal biological diversity at its fourth meeting in 1998 and the program of work on island biodiversity in 2006, the world is significantly behind schedule when it comes to the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity. Nevertheless, CBD continues to prioritize and facilitate cooperation and collaboration with relevant global and regional organizations and initiatives with regard to marine and coastal biodiversity.

“It is very important that civil society, youths, and Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) are part of the SBSTTA process, observing and being allowed the opportunity to make remarks. Parties make decisions but these actors also implement and are at the forefront of facing the consequences of biodiversity loss,” Ngaaje says.

Onyango Adhiambo, a youth delegate from academia and research under the International University Network on Cultural and Biological Diversity, supported Ngaaje’s remarks.

“Young people will need to understand the science, technical skills, and technology at play in saving our planet, for soon we will need to step in and step up. The future, which is now at stake, belongs to us, and when called upon to intervene on what the parties agree to, we must do so efficiently, effectively, and sustainably to save natural resources for future generations,” Adhiambo said.

Highlights from the session included a recognition of the importance of science for decision-making and that there are many areas of the programmes of work on marine and coastal biodiversity and on island biodiversity that have not been fully implemented and for which enhanced capacity-building and development, in particular for least developed countries and small island developing states, are needed.

The 2022 Biodiversity Plan says that we can get back on track by creating “ecologically representative, well-connected, and fairly governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, recognizing indigenous and traditional territories, where applicable, and integrating them into larger landscapes, seascapes, and the ocean, while ensuring that any sustainable use, where appropriate in such areas, is fully consistent with conservation outcomes, recognizing and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including over their traditional territories.”

Equally important is the agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, which was adopted on June 19, 2023.

Collaboration in ocean conservation beyond national boundaries was strongly encouraged on issues such as marine genetic resources, including the fair and equitable sharing of benefits; measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; environmental impact assessments; and capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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