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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
One event eclipsed all others last month and The Navigator joins the rest of the world in reflecting on the outcome of the US elections and what it means for the Ocean and planet. One thing we know is that President-Elect Biden has vowed to immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement and we hope that this will trigger a fresh wave of climate action and even a global Ocean Renaissance? We certainly welcome the appointment of Ocean protection champion John Kerry as special Climate Envoy – with a seat on the National Security Council. Just in case Secretary Kerry is reading this edition of The Navigator, we’d humbly suggest integrating Ocean resilience and regeneration into climate action plans. President Macron has heralded Joe Biden’s victory as a chance to make our planet great again. That sounds like a plan we can all get behind!
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
What the ship is going on? Shipping breaks its climate pledge – protecting profits, not our planet
Not every vote in November was a cause for hope. Delegates at the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) approved on 17th November to keep shipping on the wrong side of history by voting for measures that will allow its carbon emissions to keep rising for another decade. According to environmental analysts, this pathway will result in shipping emissions about 14% higher in 2030 than they are today, and just 1% lower than under business-as-usual. With this decision, global shipping – the world’s 6th highest greenhouse gas emitter – is failing to take any meaningful climate action and can continue to operate with impunity, largely outside any enforceable international law or external scrutiny.
Unsurprisingly, the decision unleashed a torrent of criticism from NGOs and representatives from Small Island States. The President of the Clean Shipping Coalition did not mince words: “As scientists are telling us we have less than 10 years to stop our headlong rush to climate catastrophe, the IMO has decided that emissions can keep on growing for 10 years at least. Their complacency is breathtaking. Our thoughts are with the most vulnerable who will pay the highest price for this act of extreme folly.” Environmental groups including Pacific Environment, WWF, the Clean Shipping Coalition and Ocean Conservancy accused the new regulation of undermining the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and highlighted its 3 main weaknesses: no carbon intensity target; no actual enforcement; and negligible impact on shipping’s massive carbon emissions. After this dereliction of duty at the global level, hopes now rest on regions, individual governments and private companies to take steps to decarbonize the shipping sector and push for stronger regulation.
Ocean-Climate Connection in focus at UN Climate Dialogues
December is climate month, even in 2020. Being held from 23rd November to 4th December – when we would have been gathering in Glasgow for COP26 – the UNFCCC Climate Dialogues are the latest in the continuum of high-profile virtual events aimed at building momentum and engagement, including the recent Race to Zero dialogues and leading up to the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement on 12th December. To advance the importance of the Ocean/climate connection, the discussions include a 2-day Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue to address ways to strengthen adaptation and mitigation action, featuring Ocean Unite’s Karen Sack on 3rd December along with a host of other experts and decision-makers. While COVID-19 is rightfully still the focus of international attention, building forward better requires we keep focused on our greatest long-term challenge: addressing the climate and biodiversity crises, making these virtual events a vital tool for keeping up the pressure for action. You can catch up on each day of the Dialogues here.
Ocean Panel launches new Ocean Action Agenda
After 2 years of intense work and collaboration, on 2nd December the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy released its Action Agenda for transforming how the world protects and uses the Ocean. The launch was marked with a series of national events to build global political will and share country-specific plans and priorities. Co-chaired by Norway and Palau, the Ocean Panel consists of 14 Heads of State and government representing nations large and small. To inform its Action Agenda, the Ocean Panel worked with government, business, financial institutions, the science community and civil society and commissioned a comprehensive assessment of Ocean science and knowledge. This resulted in a series of Blue Papers and Special Reports. The Panel’s report has 74 recommendations and includes support for protecting 30% of the Ocean by 2030.
The final countdown for WTO fisheries subsidies deadline
Every minute counts as the WTO fisheries subsidies talks embark on an intense, high level 2-weeks of negotiations aimed at netting a deal to end subsidies that drive overfishing before their end-of-2020 deadline. Speaking on World Fisheries Day on 21st November, chair of the talks, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, summed up what’s at stake: “The end is in sight for these negotiations. We have an opportunity, not to be missed, for the world to come together and exercise our collective responsibility for our precious fisheries resources, for the good of the Ocean and of the fisherfolk that rely on it.” So, will we see a meaningful result?
For the first time in a decade, all delegates are working on a single consolidated draft text, but many contentious and sensitive issues remain to be resolved as the clock ticks down to the deadline. The Pew Charitable Trusts is insisting on 5 things the WTO must include in the subsidies agreement if it is to fulfil SDG14.6 and have a lasting positive impact on Ocean health and the thousands of coastal communities where small-scale fishers are struggling to make a living. The inequity of the status quo is also driven home by a recent study showing that, of the reported US$35.4 billion of global fisheries subsidies doled out in 2018, only 19% went to small-scale fisheries – even though they employ 90% of fishers – and the majority of the subsidies received by large-scale fisheries were capacity-enhancing.
Eliminating harmful fishing subsidies that cause overfishing and impact the livelihoods of tens of millions of people is an opportunity not to be missed. That is the message of the Stop Funding Overfishing campaign that’s holding a 25-day countdown for the last 25 working days of the negotiations in 2020, highlighting 25 reasons why a strong deal on fisheries subsidies is needed to herald WTO’s 25th anniversary this year. About 170 organizations and multiple leading Ocean voices have joined the campaign, including former WTO Director-General and Ocean Unite Network member, Pascal Lamy, who posted this video message calling for an agreement on fisheries subsidies to usher in a new era for WTO where trade and environment go hand in hand. It’s time for political leadership at the highest levels to get this done. Come on WTO – let’s end 2020 with the splash of a deal not a splutter of delay or deferral.
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
Get ready for Ocean Super Year 2.0
Good news on the vaccine front dares us to see light at the end of the COVID tunnel. With hopes rising that international meetings will be able to resume by the second half of 2021, we are looking forward to stronger climate commitments, bold biodiversity goals, and should we dare to think it: an Ocean Super Year 2.0. The COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow is exactly 1 year away, and we owe it to future generations to make the next 12 months count by closing the gaping chasm between the Paris Agreement goal to limit global heating to 1.5C and the current commitments of countries. Most crucially, governments – including the UK hosts and the new Biden administration in the US – need to submit far more ambitious nationally determined contributions ahead of the Glasgow summit, with all committing to net zero by 2050 at the latest and racing to become biodiversity positive.
With the postponed COP15 in Kunming, China now planned for the second quarter of 2021, states are preparing to adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework as a stepping stone towards the 2050 Vision of “Living in harmony with nature” – which many insist should enshrine the commitment to strongly protect 30% of the planet, including the Ocean. This includes recognizing the critical role that Indigenous Peoples and local communities play as stewards and knowledge-bearers. Working together for nature must be how we view this deal. And we are happy to report that the world got closer to the 30% Ocean protection by 2030 “30×30” goal in November when the mid-Atlantic islands of Tristan da Cunha – a UK overseas territory – declared a 687,000 km2 marine protected area (MPA). At 3 times the size of the UK, the new no-take marine reserve around one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands will be the fourth largest fully protected marine area in the world, and the largest in the Atlantic. The ambitious decision by the Tristan da Cunha Island Council to protect 90% of its waters shows how local leadership can make a major contribution to global Ocean protection and the achievement of the science-based 30×30 target. Expansion of Ocean protection is always good news, but some are arguing that there’s “something fishy” about the UK government’s commitment to protect vast swaths of the remote South Atlantic coming soon after revelations that the seas closer to home lack even basic restrictions on fishing. As Ocean Unite’s Richard Page said: “Good to see progress towards 30×30 but we need a global MPA network that is fully representative”. Definitely something we’d like to see championed by the Biden-Harris “Ocean Renaissance” and during the upcoming 2021 Ocean Super Year.
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
Groundhog Day Redux: No new Antarctic MPAs – and IUU fishers let off the hook
The annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) once again failed to approve long-standing proposals to create new large MPAs in the Southern Ocean. To add insult to injury, a Russian vessel suspected of illegal fishing in Antarctica was let off the hook and will face no consequences. Campaigners lamented that this “failure of global leadership to protect this critical ecosystem is deeply concerning” but also highlighted the good news coming from the meeting. More CCAMLR member states than ever before back the proposed MPAs, with Norway and Uruguay signing on as new co-sponsors of the East Antarctic MPA, while Australia and Uruguay did the same for the Weddell Sea MPA, and many delegates signed a pledge of support for the formation of the 3 MPAs. Still, it’s impossible not to be deeply frustrated as yet another year ends without the Antarctic protection so urgently needed. Spanish speakers can read the response of Antarctica2020 supporters and Ocean Unite Network members Ashlan and Philippe Cousteau here. The most important take home from CCAMLR 2020 is the need to ramp up the high-level diplomacy to secure the MPA designations in 2021. As the Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition declared: “Now we must finish the job… 2021 is the year to do it!”.
But let’s leave Antarctica with some good news – and what better news is there than the discovery of a new species of penguin? This new flippered friend just goes to show how vital it is to protect this area and how much we’re still learning about this amazing ecosystem. And speaking of friends, The Navigator would like to join ASOC, in wishing EU Commisioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and Ocean Unite Network Member Virginijus Sinkevičius a Happy 30th Birthday! He is just a few months older than the Madrid Protocol, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2021. 3 new MPAs would make a perfect birthday present!
Paris Peace Forum dives into High Seas Treaty
There was a lot of High Seas buzz at the Paris Peace Forum this year, as over 12,000 participants from 150 countries convened online from 11th-13th November to advance concrete global governance solutions. One solution was presented in the high-level panel ‘Towards blue governance: Bringing High Seas Treaty negotiations over the finish line’ – available to watch here – moderated by former President of Costa Rica, José María Figueres (OU Board Chair and Co-Founder), with Sir Richard Branson (OU Co-founder), European Commissioner for the Environment, and Ocean Unite Network Member Virginijus Sinkevicius, French Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, and the President of the UN negotiating conference, Ambassador Rena Lee. Sir Richard accompanied his participation with a blog highlighting the 3 big reasons why the High Seas Treaty is so important, why we must stop delaying action and finally reach an agreement in 2021 – another key goal for Ocean Super Year 2.0.