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WELCOME TO THE NAVIGATOR!
Happy 2020! This is it folks – the ‘Ocean Super Year‘ has arrived and we hope you’re ready to put on your armour and fight for the Ocean. One Ocean ally who has already proven his 2020 mettle is endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh, who – armed with nothing but his trusty Speedos – is still defrosting after his stunning swim in Antarctica. He is calling for marine protection in the Southern Ocean – one of the many crucial commitments we need to see this year.
From the adoption of the High Seas Treaty, to the new post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the SDG14 target deadlines, and – after the damp squib of COP25 in Madrid – the critical COP26 climate talks in Glasgow at the end of the year, there is everything to play for in 2020. It’s all covered in this New Year issue of The Navigator, so dive in and let’s get the Ocean Super Year off to a swimming start.
SEEN FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE –
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
A freezing swim as Antarctica melts
“I swam here in East Antarctica to bring you this message: Having witnessed the rapid melting in this region, I have no doubt that we are facing a climate emergency.” These ice clear words were uttered by endurance swimmer, Antarctica2020 member, Ocean Unite Network member and UN Patron of the Ocean Lewis Pugh as he emerged from his epic, 1km swim across a glacial river in East Antarctica last week. “It may seem shocking that someone would be able to swim in a river that runs under the ice sheet, but that’s the point.” Lewis Pugh has completed many spectacular swims, but he calls this one “the most challenging swim of my life. It’s the coldest place on Earth.”
The irony that he is freezing to spotlight global heating is not lost on Pugh. After completing the challenge, he recounted how midway through his swim he heard an almighty boom and thought his time had come. Luckily, it was just the ice shifting. He completed this extraordinary feat to demonstrate the rapid changes that are taking place in Antarctica and call for the urgent establishment of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean.
Cheering Lewis Pugh on at the edge of the ice were fellow Antarctica2020 members, the Russian ice hockey legend and UN Patron of the Polar Regions, Slava Fetisov, and co-founder of Ocean Unite, José María Figueres. Fetisov and Pugh have now travelled to Moscow for the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian explorers Von Bellingshausen and Lazarev, to meet Russia’s leaders and urge their support for a MPA in East Antarctica, as well as those proposed for the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula at CCAMLR this October.
UN Ocean Prepcom steers SDG14
Preparations for the 2020 UN Ocean Conference, to be held in Lisbon from 4th-6th June, are shifting up a gear as delegates meet in New York for a 2-day Prepcom on 4th & 5th February. The Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, is one of the first milestones of UNSG Antonio Guterres’ newly launched Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, and will propel science-based solutions aimed at kick-starting a new chapter of global Ocean action. This is vital as 2020 is the official deadline for 4 of the 10 targets of SDG14, and currently, we are not advancing at the speed or scale needed. The pressure is on for states to meet their promises to build Ocean resilience, end illegal fishing, eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies, and conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine ecosystems.
Ocean Unite is mobilizing too, together with other NGOs and philanthropies. We believe 2020 is the year to drive bold, fair actions to set the Ocean on a course to recovery. Conditions are ideal for governments, businesses and all stakeholders to catch the wave and RISE UP for the Ocean. Stay tuned for ‘RISE Updates’ in coming days and weeks!
Palau punches above its weight in Ocean protection
The tiny island nation of Palau welcomed in the new decade with a big splash. On 1st January, the massive Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) came into effect, protecting an area of Ocean twice the size of Mexico from all extractive activities, including fishing and mining. With the PNMS covering 80% of its national waters, Palau now boasts the largest percentage of fully protected waters of any country in the world. This vast new MPA will protect vibrant marine ecosystems – home to more than 1,300 species of fish and 700 species of coral, as well as sharks, manta rays, whales and seabirds, highly valuable tuna, and the critically endangered hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles.
The ambitions of this Pacific powerhouse stretch even further. “Palau hopes to see its marine sanctuary inspire similar initiatives by countries around the world,” says President Remengesau: “a small island nation can have a big impact on the ocean, with ripple effects out into our larger world.”
And as if protecting 80% of their waters was not enough for one month, on 1st January Palau also became the world’s first country to ban “reef toxic” sun cream. The ground-breaking ban prohibits the sale or use of sun cream containing any of 10 ingredients, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, which the International Coral Reef Foundation says are “known environmental pollutants – most of them…incredibly toxic to juvenile stages of many wildlife species”.
Fortunately, Palau is at the forefront of a global trend. The number of sun creams containing the harmful chemicals is in decline, and other tourism hotspots already have bans in the pipeline, including Hawaii – whose ban comes into effect in 2021, the US Virgin Islands and the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire. The Navigator applauds Palau for being the first to cast away these harmful toxins from their beautiful beaches.
30x30 officially on the table at CBD prep meeting in China
The #Love30x30 drive to protect at least 30% of the Ocean by 2030 received a welcome boost in January with the release of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity “zero draft” text for the hotly anticipated post-2020 global biodiversity framework (or what is being called the Global Deal for Nature) to be launched at the 2020 UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China, in October.
In the draft that has been circulated in advance of the 2nd meeting of the conference preparation Working Group taking place in Kunming from 24th-28th February is the critical goal of protecting at least 30% of all land and sea by 2030. The 30×30 goal is one of 20 targets included in what a join National Geographic and Wyss Campaign for Nature CBD-related press release calls: “a proposed framing for a 10-year strategy to halt and reverse species decline, and restore ecosystem services that are critical to humanity’s survival.”
There are high hopes that the October conference will see states defy sceptics to reach ambitious, binding commitments to protect Earth’s embattled wildlife on land and in the Ocean, combat mass species extinction, and heed the UN’s stark warning that we have just 10 years to save biodiversity. 30×30 is a key part of this fight, and – as the Director of the Campaign for Nature stated – “the zero draft is a good start. Now begins the crucial work of refinement to streamline and clarify all the ideas put forward.”
EU's Green New Deal has blue highlights
The Ocean wasn’t totally left out in the cold when the EU unveiled its unparalleled €1 trillion investment plan to fight climate change and set itself on course to becoming the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. Europe’s planned ecological transition encompasses the Ocean, and the flagship Green New Deal document recognizes that a “sustainable ‘blue economy’ will have to play a central role in alleviating the multiple demands on the EU’s land resources and tackling climate change” and “lasting solutions to climate change require greater attention to nature-based solutions including healthy and resilient seas and oceans.” The Deal also promises to take a zero tolerance approach to IUU fishing. But not everyone is on board.
Some critics say the New Green Deal is not worthy of its name, claiming that the plan put forward by the world’s 3rd largest polluter focuses on private investors and that – despite the EU dedicating a quarter of its budget to the Deal – it “does not stand to benefit European citizens at all.” The new president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen wants climate policy to be the hallmark of her 5-year term, calling the New Green Deal “Europe’s man on the moon moment”, but she has her work cut out for her getting all member states to agree. Poland and the Czech Republic are among those with reservations and many hurdles remain to get the Deal through and put forward a common EU position at COP26 in Glasgow at the end of the year.
WTO fisheries subsidies talks heat up – but which side is the EU on?
Long-running negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies are currently the only remotely promising agenda item at WTO, with the EU, US, China and other fishing nations working hard to secure a worldwide deal at the 12th Ministerial Conference in June. But there are signs of major trouble brewing as talks continue in Geneva in the first week of February. While the European Commission is a vocal champion of the talks and eager to reach an agreement – both to support their Ocean protection goals and to show that the beleaguered multilateral trading system is still functional – some EU countries look set to sabotage the process. These opposing forces could sink the chances of a deal as EU countries – led by Spain, France and other big fishers – are pushing in Brussels for subsidies for new fishing vessels. This would totally undermine the EU’s position in Geneva, where it is officially calling for the strictest possible ban on subsidies that contribute to overfishing.
Canada, meanwhile, is trying to move towards consensus by putting forward a new proposal on prohibiting subsidies driving overcapacity and overfishing that incorporates special flexibilities for developing and least developed countries. This proposal is still under discussion and the Chair of the talks, Colombian Ambassador Santiago Wills, has issued a special video message imploring delegates to meet their commitments to the Global Goals for our Ocean and reach an agreement so vital for the preservation and sustainable use of marine resources. As the June deadline looms, the Ambassador has shifted the subsidies talks to “continuous negotiations mode”, but it remains to be seen if we end up with a strong deal that honours the SDG14.6 target to eliminate and prohibit harmful subsidies by 2020, or stay stuck in a never-ending fish fight.
Getting connected at the Convention on Migratory Species
“Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home” is the theme of the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, being held in Gandhinagar, India, from 15th-22nd February. A key goal is to promote an “Ecological Connectivity” stand-alone target and integrate the concept into other relevant targets of the new Global Biodiversity Framework. Parties are also reviewing progress on several Ocean-related initiatives, including the development of an atlas on animal migration; decisions on impacts of Ocean noise on whales, dolphins and other migratory species; and sustainable boat-based marine wildlife watching. Migratory species pay no attention to political borders, so let’s hope they can inspire us to get better connected in our shared quest to protect nature.
OCEAN SIGNALS– SHORT OCEAN ANNOUNCEMENTS
WAVES ON THE HORIZON –
WHAT'S COMING UP?
High Seas on the Horizon – What's coming up?
IGC4, the 4th and final session of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument to protect the High Seas (ABNJ) is happening in New York from 23rd March-3rd April. With just these 2 weeks of negotiating time left, we are at a critical juncture. A new draft treaty text was released in November and parties have until 20th February to submit textual proposals to be discussed at IGC4. An intense programme of work is scheduled, with days of “informal informals” (yes – this is a proper term) on the key potential sticking points: sharing benefits of marine genetic resources, transfer of marine technology, environmental impact assessments, and area-based management tools including MPAs. If all goes well, at the end of IGC4, the draft text of the agreement should be adopted, ready to be put forward to the General Assembly and – according to the agreed schedule – adopted by the end of 2020.
It’s an exciting moment for the Ocean and failure is not an option. This is the first global treaty process on the Ocean in over 2 decades, and the only one targeted at the protection of marine biodiversity in the High Seas. A truly once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn the tide, not just for the Ocean but for our entire planet. And now the clock is really ticking. In these final months, high ambition and political will are pivotal to ensure the new treaty enables real legal protection for nearly half the planet. After nearly 2 decades of discussions and negotiations, we must deliver a strong, binding High Seas Treaty to adoption by the end of this year. That’s the dedicated mission of the High Seas Alliance and you can catch up on the negotiations so far and follow IGC4 live when the time comes on their famous Treaty Tracker.
IMO air pollution regulation tainted by dirty fuels
The 1st January 2020 marked the entry into force of the International Maritime Organization’s shipping fuel regulation to cut sulphur levels to reduce air pollution. However, a worrying discovery has been made that some of the new blended low sulphur shipping fuels that have been developed and marketed by oil companies to comply with the new IMO 2020 air pollution standards will actually lead to an increase in the emissions of the super pollutant, black carbon. In response, the Clean Arctic Alliance has called on the members of the IMO to support an immediate switch to cleaner fuels for ships in the Arctic and to develop an international rule that bans fuels with black carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, over the next few months a number of key meetings will be happening at the IMO to discuss this issue, as well as others related to reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from ships. Tune in next month to find out more.
The Economist World Ocean Summit 2020: threats and trade-offs
On 9th & 10th March, the New Ocean Agenda will be theme of the 2020 World Ocean Summit in Tokyo. According to the conference organizers, “we are facing a perfect storm. On the one hand government and industry increasingly see the ocean as an important source of economic growth; on the other, they are tasked with countering the existential threat the ocean faces due to these (and other, land-based) activities. Businesses want to invest but are unsure about the risks due to ocean degradation and associated regulation.” Participants will be addressing ways to break through this dichotomy. Forthright discussion about threats and trade-offs are planned as an essential part of building the new Ocean agenda.
A LOOK BACK AT WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
Climate talks nod to the Ocean but fail our Blue Planet
UNFCCC COP25 in Madrid ended on 15th December to a global chorus of dismay. The ambition we so urgently need never materialized and states failed to reach consensus in many key areas – including the notorious ‘Article 6’ on carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation. Yet again, crucial decisions were postponed to the next COP, COP26 in Glasgow at the end of the year. The disconnect between the feeble formal negotiations and the masses of people outside in the street calling for action has never been more stark. But there is one silvery lining to this cloud of disappointment. The ‘Blue COP’ lived up to its name as, for the first time, the negotiated text recognised the critical importance of the Ocean to the Earth’s climate system and the need to ensure the integrity of Ocean and coastal ecosystems in the context of climate change. Considering the Ocean absorbs over 1 billion kg of CO2 from the atmosphere every single hour, it’s incredible that it took a quarter of a century of climate talks to reach this point, but progress is progress. The text also signals a process to convene dialogue on the Ocean-climate nexus in Bonn in June, and commits to reflecting the recommendations from that dialogue in COP26. At the state level, the COP President announced that 39 countries have now committed to including the Ocean in their future Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
2020 is the deadline for all countries to announce more ambitious NDCs and long-term cohesive strategies to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. There is no more road to kick the can down. Climate breakdown is already impacting the Ocean and recognition in the COP25 text is little consolation without the large-scale emissions cuts needed to keep global heating below 1.5oC. A strong outcome for our Blue Planet in Glasgow would be the perfect way to cap off the 2020 ‘Ocean Super Year‘.
Environmental risks get top billing in Davos
For the first time, all 5 of the top risks by likelihood, and 3 by impact are climate-related, according to the 15th Global Risks Report, published ahead of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos from 21st to 24th January. It marks a palpable shift in focus away from the financial crises that dominated the previous decade, towards concern about environmental disasters, extreme weather, biodiversity, and the very real threat of failure of global processes aimed at mitigating climate change. “The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning,” said WEF President Borge Brende, insisting that this is the year “to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks.” Stark climate warnings were issued by speakers including the Prince of Wales, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and youth activist Greta Thunberg, while the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, asked participants: are you on the right side or the wrong side of the transition way from fossil fuels? And if you are on the wrong side, what are you going to do about it? There were also well-publicized disagreements, but one thing everyone could agree on was a new initiative to grow, restore and conserve 1 trillion trees around the world to sequester carbon and protect biodiversity. Trees, like the Ocean, can unite people.