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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
There’s a whole lot of talking going on about the Ocean these days, on shipping, mining, fishing and a host of other marine matters. That’s as it should be, but not all it should be. The 2020 Ocean Super Year needs to be about action. Talking just won’t cut it anymore. Participants at the Preparatory Meeting for the UN Ocean Conference at the start of this month declared that 2020 must be a year of concrete action for the Ocean. The Navigator couldn’t agree more. We cannot negotiate our way out of this deep crisis: it’s time to unite, RISE UP and take bold action to safeguard the Ocean.
A litmus test for the Super Year is the upcoming 4th and – hopefully – final intergovernmental conference on the new High Seas Treaty at the end of March, IGC4. Will governments come ready to agree on the Treaty to deliver to the General Assembly or get bogged down in detail and disagreement? There is already talk of adding in a 5th negotiation session later this year, but protecting half the planet is too important a matter to keep kicking into the long seagrass. We need real leadership and determination to adopt a strong High Seas Treaty in 2020, as promised, so we can move forward. Let’s RISE UP for the kind of Ocean action we need to see in 2020.
Note: The Navigator’s editorial team apologises in advance for all the references to RISE UP – A Blue Call to Action, but we think it is a really good Ocean action agenda that our entire community should get behind, and you can climb aboard here.
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
IMO shipping talks face tough choices: A clean Arctic or climate crime scene?
The IMO Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 7) meeting in London from 17th-21st February – named the IMO Arctic Summit due to its focus on the growing impact of shipping on the fragile region – brought dramatic scenes and tough talks to the banks of the River Thames. Arriving delegates were confronted with a theatrical crime scene by campaigners highlighting the dangers posed by heavy fuel oil (HFO) and black carbon pollution for communities and wildlife in the Arctic. The Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of 18 NGOs, ramped up the pressure on the 2nd day, calling on IMO Member States to urgently agree a ban on the use and carriage of HFO by all ships operating in Arctic waters. Canada’s announcement on 18th February that it now backs an HFO Arctic ban was welcomed by both the Clean Arctic Alliance and the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, who stressed that the costs for stronger environmental protection must not be offloaded onto local communities. However, although Canada’s support brings us a step closer to a ban, there are still difficult waters to navigate. While 7 of the 8 Arctic nations now back banning HFOs, Russia is yet to get on board, and even among the supporting states there are calls for a phased-in approach and delays that would allow some ships to use HFOs for at least 5 more years. With a “46% increase in the volume of HFO fuel carried by ships in the Arctic between 2015 and 2017” raising the risk of oil spills and black carbon impacts, the Clean Arctic Alliance insists that any delays or exemptions to the ban are totally unacceptable. Switching to distillate fuels in the Arctic and using diesel particulate filters will lead to black carbon reductions of over 99%. Action is needed now, not in 5 years!
The need for shipping to clean up its act is made even more urgent by two alarming revelations. Firstly – as reported in the last issue of The Navigator – some of the new blended low sulphur shipping fuels introduced to meet the IMO 2020 sulphur cap will actually increase black carbon emissions. And, secondly, that the Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS) – known as “scrubbers” – widely used by ships to circumvent the new sulphur standards while continuing to burn HFOs are just turning air pollution into Ocean pollution. This problem is front and center at PPR7, with several international environmental organizations calling into question the use of scrubbers and asking why the “cumulative impacts on the marine environment of increasing volumes of scrubber waste being discharged into our seas was not adequately considered prior to allowing their use.” A very good question! The organizations, including WWF and Friends of the Earth, warn that “installing scrubbers does nothing to address the spill risk associated with the use of HFO and provides inferior reductions to black carbon.” This is set to be a thorny issue: the shipping industry has already spent more than $12bn fitting thousands of scrubbers on its vessels, but growing numbers of ports – including Singapore and the Suez Canal – are now banning the discharge of scrubber wastewater due to pollution. Critics say IMO Member States should have assessed these risks before allowing the use of scrubbers under the new rules, and some are calling for their use to be halted until health questions can be answered. The 2020 sulphur cap is important, but until these loopholes are closed we are taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back. The simple solution? Switch to cleaner shipping fuel!
IMO shipping continued: raise ambitions and lower emissions
And that’s not all that is happening in shipping. While IMO meetings have been known to slip under the radar, it’s good that a spotlight is finally being shone on the world of shipping. The next key issue on the agenda is reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the topic of the upcoming IMO Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of Greenhouse Gases (23rd-27th March) and central to negotiations at the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 75, 30th March–3rd April).
International shipping accounts for 2-3% of global emissions – almost 1 billion tonnes of GHGs every year – but, like aviation, it’s not covered by the Paris Agreement. Also, like aviation, shipping is proving a tough industry to decarbonize. A breakthrough agreement was finally reached in 2018, setting an Initial Strategy to cut emissions by at least 50% from 2008 levels by 2050, and achieve 40% carbon efficiency improvements over 2008 levels by 2030. Sounds pretty good on paper, but a new study shows that the 2030 goal was already 3/4 met when it was set 2 years ago.
Shipping needs to raise its emissions reduction ambitions and adopt more stringent targets. IMO Member States are already putting forward proposals to be discussed at the meetings next month. Among them is a controversial proposal led by Japan to fit ships with engine power limitation devices to indirectly reduce speed and fuel – a measure many claim is “weak, opaque, and will fail to actually cut emissions” and little more than a scam that will allow shipping emissions to rise for another 10 years or more. By contrast, a study funded by the European Commission found that restricting ship speed by 20% below 2012 levels could achieve up to 34% CO2 emissions reduction by 2030. The study concluded that only speed or “Operational Efficiency” can achieve the IMO 2030 target. Operational Efficiency means applying progressively stricter CO2 reduction goals to the world’s 60,000 commercial ships, but giving them the choice over how to meet these goals. This would incentivize the advancement of multiple solutions – from new wind propulsion technology to renewable fuels, batteries, and slower speeds, drive investment in developing countries, deliver co-benefits for whales and other species, and bring shipping into line with a 1.5C trajectory. Calls for strong Operational Efficiency measures at IMO are gaining support, including from former WTO head and Ocean Unite Network Member Pascal Lamy, and we’ll be watching negotiations closely in the months ahead. It’s high time shipping came out of the shadows and got serious about Ocean and climate action.
High stake talks on deep-sea mining
With just months to go before global regulations for the exploitation of mineral resources in the seabed and Ocean floor beyond national jurisdiction are scheduled to be agreed, delegates gathered for Part 1 of the 26th Session of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) from 17th-21st February in Kingston, Jamaica. There was a lot on the table, including detailed discussions on the draft regulations, a proposal by Germany, the Netherlands and Costa Rica for Regional Environmental Management Plans, the role of deep-sea minerals in the transition to a greener economy, and tricky questions about how to equitably share the profits, benefits and costs of deep-sea mining.
States expressed divergent views on all these issues, but most importantly, above the specific technical and procedural matters on the agenda lies ISA’s essential mandate to balance the benefits to humankind with protection of the marine environment. And on this fundamental point, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) once again questioned the current viability of deep-sea mining in light of the risks to biodiversity, marine genetic resources, and intergenerational equity. For DSCC, and a growing number of government bodies, scientists and NGOs, the real questions that should be addressed are not “when and how” we should proceed with deep-sea mining but “if” it should ever be permitted and under what circumstances.
The DSCC and a growing number of government bodies, scientists and NGOs, insist that the risks are too great and our scientific knowledge of the ecosystems involved is too limited for governments to give a green light to deep-sea mining. That’s why calls for a moratorium on deep-sea mining are getting louder, including from the European Parliament, several Pacific Island governments, the EU’s Long Distance Fleet Advisory Council, and environmental groups. As the ISA timetable marches on towards agreeing mining regulations that would unleash deep-sea mineral extraction, it’s urgent that more citizens are informed and engaged in this debate and speak up for the fragile and mostly unexplored ecosystems and species of the deep.
It’s the final countdown for the High Seas Treaty
It’s countdown time ahead of the crucial final scheduled Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument to protect the High Seas, IGC4, taking place in New York from 23rd March-3rd April. States have had 3 months to comment on the draft treaty text and need to come to this 4th and final session ready for action. At the end of IGC3 last August many challenges remained and serious work, political will and ambition is needed before and during IGC4 to negotiate agreements on complex issues like sharing benefits of marine genetic resources, transfer of marine technology, environmental impact assessments, and area-based management tools – including MPAs and an interesting proposal to incorporate mobile MPAs that allow protected zones to shift as species move across the Ocean due to climate change. By the end of the 2 weeks, the draft text of the agreement should be ready to be signed, sealed and delivered to the UN General Assembly in time to be adopted by the end of 2020. Having waited, discussed, negotiated about negotiating and then actually negotiated for more than 15 years, there are no excuses for further delay to the long overdue global duty to protect half the planet – and over 95% of Earth’s living space! The High Seas Alliance has written everything you might need to brush up on the key issues before the main event. When the next Navigator comes out in March all eyes will be on the big prize in the Big Apple. A final Agreement would make 2020 a truly Super Ocean action year.
Brexit brings opportunity and uncertainty – will the UK rise to the challenge?
Breaking up is hard to do, especially when your ex is (among other things) the world’s largest body of environmental laws and institutions. The UK left the EU on 31st January, but many challenges – both known and unknown – remain as the country begins the arduous task of setting its own policies and trade agreements. Such a big change, whether you wanted it or not, brings big opportunities. The UK now has the chance to exceed EU standards in areas like water pollution, hazardous chemicals, and sustainable farming and fishing, and there will be no faceless Brussels bureaucrats to blame if they don’t!
On 29th January, a new Fisheries Bill was introduced to Parliament, confirming that the UK will leave the EU Common Fisheries Policy at the end of the Transition Period, in December 2020, ending the automatic right of EU vessels to fish in British waters. Extra measures to ensure sustainable “climate-smart” fishing have been added since the abandoned last version of the bill, but environmental groups warn that the new bill still does not live up to the pre-Brexit pledges to protect dwindling fish stocks.
An area where post-Brexit UK is even more in the global spotlight is climate change. As the hosts of COP26 – to be held in Glasgow this November – the Prime Minister and the newly-appointed COP26 President have a “herculean task” on their hands to break the deadlock on the international climate action that all but sank at COP25 in Madrid, and lead the way for countries to come forward with plans for more stringent emissions cuts in line with their legally binding Paris commitment to limit global heating to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels. To be a credible host, the UK must present its own ambitious new emissions target for 2030 and a clear policy pathway for meeting it, and prioritize its international climate leadership: the world cannot afford for COP26 to fail. The Navigator hopes the UK will RISE UP to the occasion. Look to the ‘I’ in Riseupfortheocean.org to see the priority Ocean and climate actions that need to be taken immediately to secure a net-zero carbon emissions future.
IUU fishing: falling short on 2020 target but advancing smart solutions
The 12th international forum on IUU fishing at Chatham House in London on 19th & 20th March will bring over 100 leading policymakers, researchers, industry representatives and civil society groups together to discuss the latest initiatives, regulations and research in fisheries governance and the destructive trade in illegal fish, with a special focus on IUU fishing in South East Asia. The meeting is well timed at the start of the year when SDG14’s target 14.4 – to end IUU fishing and overfishing by 2020 – is due to be met, but expected to be missed.
IUU fishing accounts for nearly 20% of the global catch and as much as 50% in some places, with poorer coastal states disproportionately affected and even, as in the case for Somalia, destabilized by illegal fishing. But the news isn’t all bad. According to a new paper prepared for the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, major strides in regulation, technology and cooperation to curb illegal fishing are underway. The paper identifies 3 key drivers of IUU fishing – weak governance; economic incentives making it a low-risk, high-gain activity; and barriers to enforcement – and 3 high-level opportunities for action – adopting global transparency in fisheries, including technological advances in tracking methods; enacting tighter port controls; and enhancing regional and global collaboration.
Global Fishing Watch proposes ending IUU fishing by rewarding good behaviour, reversing the burden of proof from the authorities to the fishing operator. Trusted, pre-screened vessels could earn fast-tracked access to ports – like “trusted traveller” border control schemes – leaving port officials more time and resources to tackle the more suspicious operators. Meanwhile, a new report by the EU IUU coalition identifies 17 key data elements that should accompany all fisheries products, including the vessel’s flag, catch area, IMO number, fishing authorizations, transhipment declarations, unloading ports and catching methods. They find that the EU currently requests 13 out of the 17 data elements, and the US requests 12 – so there’s room for improvement even among the better performing states. There will be plenty to talk about at the Chatham House IUU forum. We may miss the SDG14.4 deadline, but 2020 is still a chance to focus minds, secure commitments, and seize the potential of new advances in technology, data and governance. If you were wondering, priority Ocean and climate actions are described in the ‘R’ of RISE UP, here.
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
Earth Day turns 50 – let’s mobilize for our planet!
On 22nd April it will be 50 years since the first ever Earth Day in 1970 – a milestone golden anniversary that’s being celebrated with the largest mobilization in history. A billion people worldwide are expected to join Earth Day 2020 activities on the theme of climate action and a Great Global Cleanup plans to remove a billion pieces of trash from our cities, spaces and waters. There are multiple ways for people to step up for Earth Day this year, including the EARTHRISE campaign (yes, RISE UP!) to mobilize millions of people in a united intergenerational call to protect our planet that merges the spirit of 50 years of the environmental movement with the student strikes of today. There’s also Earth Challenge 2020, the world’s largest ever coordinated citizen science initiative, asking people to investigate plastic pollution, water quality, insect populations and climate impacts in their communities to build a platform to promote policy change. Half a century ago, millions of people took to the streets to show their love for the Earth. Let’s help make Earth Day’s 50th birthday a record-breaking moment of action.
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
RISE UP for Ocean Action – A Blue Call at the UN
It has never been more urgent to RISE UP for the Ocean! And what better place to launch the RISE UP Blue Call for Action than at the UN Ocean Conference Preparatory Meeting in New York on 4th & 5th February? Members of the RISE UP collaboration, including Ocean Unite, introduced the Blue Call to Action to government delegates through a formal intervention at the meeting, a side event and a press conference at the UNHQ. The message was also taken straight to the top when the RISE UP team presented the Blue Call to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who welcomed the initiative: “Together we must save our Ocean from the warming, overfishing and pollution threatening our lives and livelihoods. I was pleased to meet with RISE UP, a coalition of scientists and civil society, pushing for bolder action to protect and restore our oceans.
The Blue Call to Action was developed by a unique collaboration of globally active Indigenous Peoples and Fisherfolk groups, Ocean conservation organizations and philanthropies – united by mutual frustration that negotiating lengthy paragraphs of compromise text will not lead to the outcomes that Ocean and climate science tells us we need. The letters in RISE UP literally spell out the bold actions required by governments and corporations to safeguard the Ocean and the people who depend on it.
Preparations for the UN Ocean Conference in Portugal from 2nd-6th June are now in full flow. The conference themes have been announced and by early March a zero draft is scheduled to be circulated as a starting point for an intergovernmentally agreed declaration. In the months before this pivotal meeting of the Ocean Super year, RISE UP will be mobilizing decision-makers and citizens behind the actions needed to meet the SDG14: Life Below Water targets, and go beyond them to secure, restore and regenerate marine life and grow its resilience to the climate emergency. Join the conversation at #RiseUp4TheOcean and if your organisation or company has not yet signed up to RISE UP, then visit www.riseupfortheocean.org and add your voice today!
Ocean Week in Brussels – A Blue Manifesto for a Green Europe
Ocean Week 2020, in Brussels from 3rd-9th February, saw 7 days of debates and activities in Brussels and beyond to highlight the huge threats faced by marine species and habitats and offer practical ways to solve them. Events included the Ocean Action! Conference on 5th February, held by BirdLife Europe, ClientEarth, Oceana, Seas at Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe and WWF, where policy makers, scientists, activists and artists called on the EU to act on its commitment to protect and restore our seas and Ocean, discussed the high cost of inaction, and charted a new route out of the crisis. Just days before Ocean Week, over 100 NGOs launched the Blue Manifesto, a new rescue plan for Europe to make and to ensure a healthy Ocean by 2030. It lays out concrete actions to be delivered by set dates in order to turn the tide on Europe’s degraded and polluted marine and coastal areas. According to Seas at Risk, the Blue Manifesto is “the Blue answer to the European Green Deal” and the European version of how to roll out RISE UP.