Thank you for subscribing, Please scroll down to check out this month’s Navigator.
WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
Climate, climate, climate, and a bit more climate is the theme of this edition of The Navigator, going to press as delegates flood into Glasgow for the all-important COP26 Climate Conference. This is the big one. John Kerry is upbeat. He believes world leaders are “sharpening their pencils” to make fresh commitments and deliver a “big leap forward.” Greta Thunberg is less convinced, declaring that “there are no real climate leaders yet” but hoping some may still step up to the challenge in Glasgow – because “the science does not lie.” And science helps put things in perspective: the bottom line is that we have one Ocean and one planet. So we welcome the sentiment expressed by Prince William that, “we need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live” – perchance a subtle reference to the new billionaire space race. The Navigator also congratulates the winners of the first Earthshot Prize, especially Coral Vita who won the “Revive our Ocean” award.
Whether prince, president, protestor, or penguin we are all in spaceship Earth together and – as Sir David Attenborough declared at the opening of COP26, “If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.” Let’s hope COP26 goes down in history as a turning point for our planet and our Ocean.
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
COP26: Will Glasgow deliver what Paris promised?
The COP26 Climate Conference that opened in Glasgow on 31st October is a really big deal and all Ocean lovers need to take notice! Because the Ocean and climate change are two sides of the same crisis. Running until the 12th November – and starting with a World Leaders Summit on 1st & 2nd November – the central goal is to bring all parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, get on track to reach global net zero by mid-century, and keep the 1.5C global heating limit within reach. There’s everything to play for and a lot to get to grips with, so here’s a handy guide to COP26 and why it matters, a jargon buster, and an A to Z of who’s who in Glasgow from Sir David Attenborough to China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua.
It’s no wonder that the UK hosts are feeling the heat – even their Queen is irritated at leaders who “talk” but “don’t do”! – and admit that it’s “touch and go” whether they can broker the climate deal the world so desperately needs. But there is far more at stake than political embarrassment if the talks fail. The World Meteorological Organization just reported that greenhouse gas concentrations reached a new record in 2020 with the trend continuing in 2021, despite all the pandemic lockdowns, and the new Emissions Gap Report 2021 calculates that all the new national climate pledges, combined with all other mitigation measures, put the world on a pathway for 2.7C of global heating by the end of the century. Decades of frustrating inaction in the face of clear scientific evidence is driving intergenerational inequalities. Studies show that people born in 2020 will face up to 7 times more extreme climate-related events over their lifetimes than people born in 1960. Unsurprisingly, climate inaction is fuelling ‘eco anxiety’ in children worried about the future of the planet and their own lives. As Kenyan youth activist Elizabeth Wathuti said in her powerful speech at the opening of COP26, “children cannot live on words and empty promises. They are waiting for you to act!” But will the leaders gathered in Glasgow value the lives of these young people and deliver the promises made in Paris in 2015?
Two of the architects of the Paris Agreement have been highlighting just how much is on the line in Glasgow. US Climate Envoy John Kerry calls COP26 the “starting line for the rest of the decade” and optimistically believes the world is poised to take a big leap forward. Former Prime Minister of France and Chair of COP21 in Paris, Laurent Fabius, insists that “this is no time for climate fatalism” and that Glasgow must be an accelerator of action. As ever, money is set to be one of the deal-breaking issues. The question is, will developing countries be satisfied by the new Climate Finance Delivery Plan released ahead of the conference? Since it confirms that rich countries are likely to fall short of their US$100 billion a year pledge until 2023, continued calls for this long-standing commitment to be met immediately are to be expected, alongside reminders that the US$100 billion is a floor and not a ceiling.
Speaking of money, another new report – Navigating Ocean Risk: Value at Risk in the Global Blue Economy, published by WWF and Metabolic – reveals that, under business-as-usual, investors in 66% of listed companies are collectively at risk of losing US$8.4 trillion due to declining Ocean health and climate change. Even limiting global heating to 2C will mean losses of US$3.3 trillion, demonstrating once again the importance of keeping to the 1.5C target. That’s why the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) are in Glasgow making sure no one forgets that “a resilient and net zero world is not possible unless the Ocean and its biodiversity are protected.” The Navigator – along with the rest of the world! – is watching closely and hoping to witness the arrival of brave new era of climate action.
The #ListenToTheOcean campaign launched in June 2021 at the G7 Summit and culminates at COP26. Using the resources here throughout the UN Climate Conference supports the amplification of three policy asks calling on world leaders and decision makers to #ListenToTheOcean. Glasgow needs to boldly go where no other COP has gone before.
Declaring the Ocean our biggest climate ally
More than 90 organizations have signed an Ocean for Climate Declaration calling on both governments and non-state actors to accelerate the deployment of Ocean-based climate solutions. Building on the work of the global Ocean community over the past decade, the Declaration supports a strong political outcome at COP26 on the intrinsic Ocean-climate connection. There are 3 key messages for COP26: the need for greater ambition to halve emissions by 2030; the need to scale up nature-based solutions, including blue carbon ecosystems and climate-proof fishing; and the need for increased finance and scientific knowledge. The Declaration outlines priority actions that public and private actors should take to secure a healthy and productive Ocean as our best ally for a resilient, nature-positive, and net-zero future.
The Ocean for Climate Declaration shows the Ocean community uniting ahead of COP26 to center the Ocean in the climate fight and “deliver us from this nightmare” – as UN Special Envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson recently stated as part of a joint call by Ocean champions for climate action. He explains: “From the Ocean’s perspective, everything is connected. Think of it as one bathtub. So, what’s flowing off the Greenland ice sheet is causing a rising sea level in an atoll republic. If you’re burning coal to get your electricity, you’re contributing to the drowning of an age-old island culture.” The OneOcean Flotilla – a collective of marine organizations driving Ocean protection through impactful communication – is bringing this message to COP26 and working with partners to secure a positive Ocean-climate outcome.
G20 Roman Holiday leaves critics cold
The first G20 Summit ever held in Italy ended on 31st October with the adoption of the G20 Rome Leaders’ Declaration. So, what’s in it for the Ocean? Quite a lot. The leaders of the world’s biggest economies – among other things – “commit to strengthen actions to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030”; recognize efforts “to ensure that at least 30% of global land and at least 30% of the global Ocean and seas are conserved or protected by 2030”; agree to “take concrete measures to end overfishing, deliver on our commitment to end illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”; and “highlight the importance of parties to UNCLOS making progress as soon as possible in the ongoing negotiations for an ambitious and balanced” High Seas Treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity. The Navigator is also pleased to see reference to the need to scale up and encourage the implementation of nature-based solutions. But, with most world leaders heading straight from Rome to COP26 in Glasgow, the lack of concrete commitments on climate change left many critics cold. UNSG Antonio Guterres was less than impressed, saying that, “While I welcome the G20‘s recommitment to global solutions, I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled – but at least they are not buried.” WWF clearly hoped for more from the nations collectively responsible for 78% of global greenhouse gas emissions, responding regretfully that: “G20 leaders mostly reaffirmed and made few new commitments to act on the climate crisis. Much more is needed to close critical planetary gaps.” We can safely say that Rome did not steal Glasgow’s thunder.
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
Will WTO talks see the light and Stop Funding Overfishing?
The current goal in the 20-year saga to reach a deal to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO) is to finalize an agreement by the next Ministerial Conference at the end of November. But first there are serious hurdles to overcome. In a sign of just how important these talks are – and just how tricky the final obstacles in their path are – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a rare intervention in WTO affairs in a letter calling on world leaders “to join me in pushing for agreement at WTO to end harmful fisheries subsidies before the end of this year.” The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) also convened an event at WTO’s 2021 Public Forum to highlight the importance of securing new rules on fisheries subsidies and call for cooperation in the (hopefully!) final stage of the talks. Another intensive round of negotiations is underway, but according to WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell, “there are some very, very tough issues that need to be addressed… the discussions on exemptions, the going is very tough.” States are battling several contentious points, including which authorities should be empowered to adjudicate and prosecute IUU fishing provisions, and the question of carving-out exemptions for poorer fishing states. One delegate in the negotiations ominously described the current state of talks as “a bit dark“.
To help shed some light on the matter, on 25th October renowned photographers joined 181 organizations from around the world to launch an online exhibition urging world leaders to deliver on their mandate to agree to stop harmful fisheries subsidies in 2021. The message of the ‘An Exhausted Ocean’ exhibition is that: “Today, we are running out of time. Our fisheries are in crisis. An Ocean gasping for life could easily be our future. But it doesn’t have to be!” The photographs bring the high stakes of reaching an agreement into sharp relief, by showing the bleak reality of what might be if WTO doesn’t take action now to renew the health of our Ocean and sustain fisher people and the populations who depend on them. It is hoped that these images will inspire leaders to reach a strong deal and amplify the reasons why ending harmful subsidies that fuel overfishing is so crucial to the health of the Ocean and everyone who depends on it. Nearly 300 scientists agree that WTO must ban harmful subsidies, and everyone is invited to join the conversation to #StopFundingOverfishing and protect the Ocean.
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
Optimism and ambition at Part 1 of Biodiversity COP15
The first part of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference (CBD COP15) took place virtually from 11th-15th October, beginning with a high-level session. UNSG Antonio Guterres opened the meeting with a forceful video message declaring that: “We are losing our suicidal war against nature. … COP15 is our chance to call a ceasefire. … Together with COP26 on climate, it should lay the foundations for a permanent peace agreement”. The delegates rose to the challenge by agreeing on the Kunming Declaration and launching the new Kunming Biodiversity Fund with large contributions pledged by several countries. In the Declaration, leaders confirm that putting biodiversity on a path to recovery is a defining challenge of this decade and agree that the drivers of change are largely the same across biodiversity loss, climate change, land degradation and desertification, Ocean degradation, and pollution. They also note the call from many countries for conserving 30% of Earth’s land and Ocean areas by 2030 and commit to providing all the means necessary to implement an effective Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, to be agreed when they meet for COP15 Part 2 in Kunming from 25th April-8th May 2022. This is so vital, not least because biodiversity loss is jeopardizing the medicines we need for the future “just at the time we need them most” and when there is still so much to discover. The meeting ended with Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Elizabeth Maruma Mrema concluding that “we can feel a renewed sense of optimism” and that there is worldwide support for the level of ambition needed to put global efforts on track.
Now we need to see this ambition and commitment transferred to Glasgow in a “seamless relay of the baton”, as the biodiversity COP15 and the climate COP26 are part of the same race to address our planetary crises and together they can help us win. The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework could even become the ‘Paris Agreement for Nature’. As Arnaud Goessens of the Wildlife Conservation Society writes, leadership is critical and “there can be no solution to the climate and pandemic crises without also combating the biodiversity crisis.” At COP15 Part 1, UNSG Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson also stressed the need for coherence, asking: “How can we ensure coherent actions? … We have no option but to impose coherence, within the UN system and associated bodies and processes, but also to the global governance.” And, in a message that applies equally to States deciding on marine protection in the Southern Ocean at CCAMLR (see next story!), he warned that: “In the name of intergenerational justice, let us acknowledge that in our quest for workable solutions, we cannot allow global progress to be held hostage by the intransigence of 1 or 2 countries.”
Disappointment at CCAMLR – another Antarctic obstruction
The 40th meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) concluded on 29th October with yet another historic missed opportunity to protect Antarctica. For the 5th year in a row, no new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were agreed. And this year the disappointment is even more bitter, as the failure came despite leading scientists joining 1.5 million world citizens, artists, musicians, and politicians, to #CallOnCCAMLR to protect Antarctica and build climate resilience by designating three large MPAs in East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the Weddell Sea. The pressure to act has never been stronger, but the clear biological imperative to protect the Southern Ocean was once again scuppered by obstruction from China and Russia preventing CCAMLR member states from reaching the consensus needed to establish new MPAs. It’s small comfort that the Declaration agreed at the meeting says that members, “Reaffirm their determination to establish a representative system of Marine Protected Areas within the Convention Area”, when progress to actually designate new MPAs is thwarted year after year. As the Executive Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) insists: “The planet and Antarctica’s precious waters cannot afford yet another year of inaction”.
One sliver of good news is that we may not have to wait a whole year to try again, as all the MPA co-proponents have agreed to explore the option of holding an inter-sessional meeting specifically on MPAs before the next annual meeting. This reflects the fact that, despite the disheartening outcome this year, there are more MPA co-proponents than ever, and they are more united, more assertive, and more determined to get the job done. Another positive development is that CCAMLR did manage to agree to extend the regulation that spreads out the amount of krill that is allowed to be caught to reduce the impact on krill-dependent predators like penguins, seals, and whales. But, as Andrea Kavanagh of The Pew Charitable Trusts warns, “we know from recent science that this measure alone isn’t enough to keep the ecosystem healthy around the Antarctic Peninsula, which is warming faster than any other place on the planet.” The fight to secure the greatest act of Ocean protection in history must continue.
Earlier in October, the mood was more celebratory as Spain hosted an international conference on “Antarctica: Present and Future” to mark the 30th anniversary of the Madrid Protocol. Highlights of the event (available to watch here) included a strong call to action from oceanographer Sylvia Earle – who reminded participants that “we must make the Earth livable as if our lives depend on it. Because they do” – and Ocean Unite Network members Pascal Lamy and Genevieve Pons presenting the Antarctic Petition signed by 1.5 million people to Spain’s Minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, asking world leaders to designate the 3 Southern Ocean MPAs. Just days ahead of the critical CCAMLR meeting (that we now know ended in disappointment), the Minister said she was optimistic about the intention and willingness of states to protect the Ocean surrounding Antarctica. The science is clear, even if political consensus has since failed. Just one key Antarctic species – krill – stores as much carbon deep in the Ocean as is produced by 35 million cars every year! As scientist Sheila Heymans writes, the Scientists Letter calling on CCAMLR to act is “exactly the type of bold action we need to make a significant contribution to tackling the biodiversity and climate crises. … As a scientist gravely concerned about the state of our planet and our Ocean, I hope that countries act before it is too late.” The emperor penguins facing extinction by the end of the century would certainly agree!
Launch of the EU's Starfish Enterprises
On 29th September, the EU’s Mission Starfish to “Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030” was officially launched as one of 5 EU Missions aimed at working towards ambitious goals on health, the climate and the environment by 2030. Mission Starfish’s new, systemic approach will address the Ocean and waters as one and play a key role in reaching climate neutrality and restoring nature. The Mission, which was co-chaired by Ocean Unite Network Member Pascal Lamy, will help achieve the EU objectives of protecting 30% of the EU’s sea area, as well as restoring marine eco-systems and 25,000 km of free flowing rivers, preventing and eliminating pollution by reducing plastic litter at sea, nutrient losses and use of chemical pesticides by 50%, and making the blue economy climate-neutral and circular with net-zero maritime emissions.