UN Hub, Partnerships and Research Focus on Sustainable Oceans

Photo Credit: 
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

5 January 2017: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched the Ocean Action Hub, which will host dialogues on ocean issues, facilitate the sharing of commitments, solutions and ideas by stakeholders and bring together stakeholders to assess opportunities and challenges related to achieving SDG 14 (Life Below Water).

With regard to research, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP or UN Environment) and partners released findings that underscore the importance of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to minimize annual coral bleaching events. UN Environment also announced a collaboration on oceans with the EU, and highlighted dugong and seagrass conservation efforts in concert with the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The UNDP Ocean Action Hub will facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement and generate momentum in advance of the UN High-Level Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14. The Conference aims to catalyze and scale up implementation of SDG 14 on conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources. The Hub features news stories and videos on ocean action as well as information on the forthcoming event.

On research, UNEP and partners reviewed climate change projections to predict effects on coral reef bleaching. The article, ‘Local-scale projections of coral reef futures and implications of the Paris Agreement,’ published in ‘Scientific Reports,’ observes that the world is “in the middle of the longest global coral bleaching event on record” and predicts that nearly all the world’s coral reefs will experience severe bleaching on an annual basis if current trends continue and the world does not reduce GHG emissions. Corals require a minimum of five years to regenerate, which means that the predicted annual bleaching will have a deadly effect on corals and reduce the capacity of coral reefs to provide ecosystem goods and services, such as coastal protection and fisheries. The article identifies coral reef climate losers and winners, explaining that reefs near the equator will experience annual bleaching sooner than coral reefs at high and low latitudes, for which there is more time to implement conservation efforts. Commenting on the findings, UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim said the projections “allow conservationists and governments to prioritize the protection of reefs that may still have time to acclimatize to our warming seas…[and] show us where we still have time to act before it’s too late.” He stressed that meeting the Paris Agreement targets “will buy time for coral reefs and allow us to plan for the future and adapt to the present.” For example, if governments fulfill their emission reduction pledges in the Paris Agreement, the article predicts corals would have another 11 years to adapt to warming seas. UNEP will publish a companion report with data for coral reef policy and management planning and regional summaries shortly.

On project-related research and outcomes, UNEP and the GEF highlighted their ‘Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project,’ the first coordinated global effort to conserve dugongs and seagrass. The project works with local communities to help them understand the importance of conserving dugongs and their habitats in dugong range states of Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mozambique, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu. Project activities include encouraging communities to stop destructive fishing practices through market incentives and mapping the area, density and extent of seagrass meadows using drones to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation efforts.

On collaboration, Solheim and the European Commissioner (EC) for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, agreed on a common roadmap and joint activities to support implementation of marine policies on marine litter and pollution. The two organizations will also collaborate on the UN High-Level Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14 and the Our Ocean conference in October 2017.

Vella said “joining our forces will bring global benefits for oceans on whose health we all depend for our food, our climate, and as engines for sustainable economic growth. But our cooperation goes much further as delivering on the environmental dimension of the SDGs is crucial for turning them from aspiration to reality.” Solheim commented, “few ecosystems stand to benefit more from international cooperation than oceans. We must work together to clean and protect these great expanses and vital sources of biodiversity and human livelihoods.”

Source: SDG knowledge Hub, a project by IISD - http://sdg.iisd.org/news/un-hub-partnerships-and-research-focus-on-sustainable-oceans/