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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
Welcome to our end-of-summer blockbuster edition, bringing you all the Ocean and climate action (and, sadly, inaction) heroes and villains, and looking forward to a busy season ahead as we surge towards 2020. Things have been getting heated – literally. July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded, fires are raging from the Arctic to the Amazon, and Greenland lost almost 200 million tonnes of ice in July alone. We are living the climate emergency and it makes Ocean action even more urgent. In the coming months we must fight for greater ambition over the High Seas treaty. The just completed 3rd round of treaty talks made progress, but now it’s time to shift up a gear and move from the technical to the political track. And governments must not turn up empty-handed to the UN Climate Action Summit later this month. Global heating is the biggest threat to our Ocean and puts us all at risk. Indonesia is moving its capital city because Jakarta is sinking. How many more cities are we willing to lose? How many more species? How many more lives? The holiday season is over. Let’s get to work.
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
High Seas treaty talks: a texting time at round 3
Delegates delved into line-by-line negotiations of a “zero draft” High Seas treaty text when they met for the third session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC3) on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) in New York from 19th–30th August. Representatives arrived ready to make progress and a spirit of cooperation permeated throughout the meeting. There was even some celebrity sparkle to diplomatic proceedings from actor and Greenpeace Ambassador Javier Bardem, who reminded us all that our Ocean needs us.
But it was not all plain sailing. Sessions ran late into the evening as delegates strove to reconcile differences and conclude Articles on all 4 key elements: marine genetic resources, including tricky questions on benefit-sharing; High Seas MPAs; environmental impact assessments; and capacity building and marine technology transfer. The heavily-bracketed 48-page draft on the table showed just how many points still need to be agreed, and while good technical progress was made, political divisions need to be bridged ahead of IGC4 in early 2020. Ambitions must remain high. After 15 years of negotiations, the last thing we need is a watered-down, status-quo agreement. Growing alarm at global heating impacts on the Ocean should fire up the final talks and deliver a robust, comprehensive treaty that puts cooperation and science at the heart of High Seas marine protection and includes provisions for effective monitoring, control and surveillance. Adding further fuel to this fire, scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) have declared that a strong High Seas treaty is one of 8 urgent actions needed to head off irreversible ecological disaster in the global Ocean.
Progress must continue during the intersessional period leading up to IGC4, as the clock ticks down to the 2020 treaty deadline. This is without doubt the crunch point for our Ocean and high time to set aside differences before we run out of chances to secure the last global commons for present and future generations.
FINtastic RAYsult for sharks at CITES
CITES CoP18, held in Geneva from 17th–28th August, gave a resounding response to the extinction crisis by adopting an impressive list of decisions strengthening the international trade regime for wildlife, from glass frogs to giraffes, treetops to the ocean floor. And 18 was the lucky number for sharks and rays. Despite powerful dissenting voices and opposition from China, Iceland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and the U.S., 18 new species were added to Appendix II, including rhino rays and mako sharks, whose populations have taken a deep dive, taking us a step closer to protecting the fastest shark in the ocean, as well as the most threatened. Many of these shark and ray populations are at risk of becoming longline bycatch of international fishing fleets. This Appendix II listing means that these species cannot be traded unless it can be shown that fishing does not threaten their chances for survival. Other marine species were not left out in the cold – the conference covered eels, sea cucumber, queen conch, marine turtles, precious corals, sturgeons and seahorses, as well as the trade in live ornamental marine fish.
However, it is a double-edged sword. One more CITES listing is just one more confirmation that fisheries management bodies are not living up to their best potential by ensuring the sustainable management of these species. But these new trade measures will hopefully give these species an extra protection boost.
The meeting also adopted its ambitious new Strategic Vision Post-2020 in Geneva, cementing CITES position as a leading environmental instrument positioned to play a big role ahead of a big year for biodiversity.
G7 Leaders Summit: fire and fury, with a splash of Ocean resilience
The G7 Summit was not without drama, but President Macron just about avoided the summit descending into a French farce, despite multiple distractions away from his agenda and U.S. anger at his focus on “niche issues” such as – sacre bleu! – the Ocean, equality and climate change. Raging fires in the Amazon focused (almost) everyone’s attention on global heating. After Macron declared “our house is burning” and prioritized the Amazon as an emergency item on the agenda, G7 leaders agreed a US$20 million aid package to help countries fight the fires and develop a longer-term global initiative to protect the rainforest. The plan was announced by Macron and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, but condemned as colonial interference by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who was not present. Civil society and indigenous organizations also used the occasion to issue their own Declaration, demanding the Brazilian government take responsibility for the crisis in the Amazon. Meanwhile, President Trump skipped the meeting on climate, Ocean and biodiversity, and the seaside setting failed to inspire any new joint initiative on the Ocean – despite calls from civil society – or any mention of climate, biodiversity or the Ocean in the final G7 Leaders Declaration.
On the positive side, in his closing remarks, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed the need to replace the Aichi biodiversity targets with more ambitious goals, and urged other G7 countries to back Britain’s call to protect 30% of the Ocean by 2030. Canada also spoke up for the Ocean and pledged C$2.5 million to help the new Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA), which Ocean Unite initiated together with insurance giant AXA XL, to mobilize innovative financing solutions to build Ocean resilience in communities most exposed to ocean risk. Canada’s leadership on Ocean resilience during its 2018 G7 presidency, and now through its support of ORRAA, provides crucial political will for this urgent global challenge. Other countries and companies are invited to join the resilience!
Negotiating a New Deal for Nature Post-2020
The first meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework convened in Nairobi from 27th–30th August to advance the Post-2020 goals that will be adopted at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China, in 2020. As UNEP chief Inger Andersen stressed in her welcome speech, “this is a long and difficult task, but one from which we cannot shirk.” A New Deal for Nature has never been needed more, as the direct drivers of biodiversity loss – habitat conversion, over-exploitation, pollution, climate change and invasive alien species – grow in their severity and impact. Meanwhile, states should also be pulling out all the stops to meet the 2020 Aichi targets, all but 4 of which are on track to be missed. The protection and restoration of Ocean biodiversity needs to be a top priority, as highlighted by the first international meeting of Ocean ambassadors, bringing together UN, EU, Commonwealth, and global representatives in Malta on 2nd August. Next year’s Kunming conference promises to be a critical moment for global biodiversity governance and the fight against species extinctions – The Navigator will be keeping a close watch and calling for ambitious new targets, including the need to highly protect 30% of the Ocean by 2030.
O(cean) Canada! Ottawa scores a hat-trick
On 1st August, Canada secured its position as a global Ocean leader with 3 major announcements. First, that the government and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association had completed the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for the establishment of the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area, also known as Lancaster Sound. Secondly, that the same parties have taken the first steps towards the long-term protection of Canada’s High Arctic Basin in a new Tuvaijuittuq protected area – an additional 322,000Km2 threatened by accelerating Arctic ice melt. This leads to announcement 3, that Canada will pass its target of protecting 10% of marine areas by 2020. Together, these areas cover more than 427,000 km2, meaning nearly 14% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas will be protected. Leaping from >1% to ~14% in 3 years is pretty good going. Congrats Canada!
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
IPCC Ocean and ice report: countdown to launch
Ocean people are all abuzz about the release of the IPCC’s Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate report in Monaco on 25th September. But it could be a case of “careful what you wish for” as the latest findings on the impacts of climate breakdown on the Ocean’s coastal and frozen areas are expected to send a chill down all our spines. That was certainly the case when its terrestrial twin on Climate Change and Land was released in August. The draft Ocean and Cryosphere report was circulated for government review from June to August, and IPCC members will consider the Summary for Policymakers line by line in Monaco from 20th–23rd September. Subject to approval, it will be launched at a live-streamed press conference in Monaco on 25th September at 10:00 local time – just in time to headline the next Navigator.
Climate Action Summit
Get ready for an extra busy UN General Assembly (UNGA) this September, with the UN Youth Climate Summit on the 21st, the Climate Action Summit on the 23rd, and the SDG Summit on the 24th–25th. Plus, Climate Action Summit coalitions will present initiatives during pre-summit meetings. World leaders need to get engaged and make stronger commitments than they did in Paris to give us a fighting chance of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Young people are certainly engaged. Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg has sailed safely to New York to declare “Let’s not wait any longer. Let’s do it now” to cheering crowds. Thousands of youths applied for one of 100 funded “Green Tickets” to the summit. Universities have declared a climate emergency ahead of the event and experts are reminding politicians that we really only have 18 months to save the planet, as global emissions must peak by 2020 to keep the planet below 1.5C. We are currently heading towards 3C of heating by 2100. No wonder UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is labelling the summit A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win and telling governments to come armed with concrete plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Several organizations are also raising their voices and contributing solutions – recently a range of NGOs and other institutions launched the New Blueprint for International Ocean-Climate Action, which features the steps governments should take to ensure a “thriving ocean and climate”.
Links between climate and Ocean need to be at the forefront of delegates’ minds. To help achieve this, ORRAA is holding an event calling for allied action to reduce Ocean risk and build coastal resilience in New York on 24th September.
Gearing up for CCAMLR: can we get from stalled to supercharged in 6 weeks?
Southern Ocean protection needs to be supercharged. That’s the uncompromising message of oceanographer Sylvia Earle and the Antarctica2020 group, which is calling for over 7 million km2 of the Southern Ocean to be protected by 2020. It’s a mission that can be accomplished if all 25 members of Antarctica’s Ocean body, CCAMLR, do their job and create the comprehensive network of MPAs that they agreed to over a decade ago. Three MPA proposals will be on the table when CCAMLR meets from 21st October–21st November: the East Antarctic, the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula. Last year, CCAMLR members failed to reach a consensus on further protections, a cruel blow when Antarctica is melting at an alarming rate due to global heating – as this new map shows with terrifying clarity. Watch this Antarctica 2020 film to see just what is at stake. We desperately need leadership to protect this pristine region. But progress is being stalled by just a few powerful nations, primarily China and Russia.
On 5th September, the EU has a chance to appeal directly to China at the First Ocean Partnership Forum under the EU-China Blue Partnership for the Oceans, an alliance that garnered encouraging declarations of intent to cooperate over Antarctica earlier this year. Faced with a global emergency, any obstruction to Southern Ocean protection at CCAMLR next month will be inexcusable, and impossible for any nation that claims to care about our planet to justify.
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
Deep concerns about deep sea mining
The second part of the 25th annual session of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), held in Kingston from 15th–26th July, focused on developing draft exploitation regulations on deep-seabed mining. The meeting advanced calls for environmental protection in deep-sea mining, operationalizing the Authority’s Strategic Plan and shaping a more participatory and transparent culture – which is positive. However, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) is calling for a more profound change of direction – it wants states to reconsider whether they should permit deep-seabed mining in the first place, given how little we know about deep-sea ecosystems, and whether it is even possible to prevent the loss of species and biodiversity. Calls for a moratorium on ISA-sponsored deep-seabed mining are multiplying, including from a European Parliament committee, trade unions, NGOs, the UN Special Envoy for Oceans, and countries including Fiji and the UK. Scientists added their voices with a letter sounding the alarm about “destructive” deep-sea mining, and experts are lamenting the demise of an Ocean snail that is the first animal to be officially endangered by deep-sea mining. To cap it all, the race for rights over deep-sea resources adds extra complexity and contention to the High Seas treaty negotiations.
The deadline for agreeing international mining regulations is set at 2020. But what if, instead of rushing to the finishing line, states decided to change the aim of the race? In its message to ISA on its 25th anniversary, DSCC proposed that ISA dedicates the next 25 years of its work to the protection of the deep Ocean, not its exploitation. In other words, primum non nocere: first, do no harm. We’re sure the poor, departed snail, and other deep-sea creatures, would agree.