The Lisbon conference ends with a call for more ambition in the face of the catastrophic state of the oceans

Acknowledging the Declaration’s “collective failures” in the past, world leaders called for more ambition to ensure the dire state of the oceans is addressed and admitted they were “deeply alarmed by the global ocean plight”. be.

During the closing, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Miguel de Serpa Soares, congratulated the co-organisers – Portugal and Kenya – on the success of the conference.

The conference “gave us the opportunity to discuss critical issues and generate new ideas. It has also highlighted the work still to be done and the need to step up ocean restoration efforts,” said Mr. Serpa Soares, adding that it is important to reverse the trend now.

Over 6,000 participants, including 24 heads of state and government, and over 2,000 civil society representatives attended the conference, calling for urgent and concrete action to tackle the maritime crisis.

collective failure

Recognizing a “collective failure to meet the sea-related goals”, leaders renewed their commitment to take urgent action and work together at all levels to fully achieve the goals as soon as possible.

Ocean challenges include coastal erosion, rising sea levels, warming and acidification of water bodies, marine pollution, overexploitation of fish stocks and declining marine biodiversity.

Recognizing that climate change is “one of the greatest challenges of our time” and that “determined and urgent action is needed to improve the health, productivity, sustainable use and resilience of the oceans and their ecosystems,” high-level politicians gathered in Lisbon stressed that scientific and innovative action, as well as international cooperation, are essential to provide the necessary solutions.

Calling for transformative change, leaders stressed the need to address the cumulative impacts of global warming on the oceans, including ecosystem degradation and species extinction.



© Rodrigo Cabrita

Participants at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

reaffirm commitments

The signatories reaffirmed that the ocean is fundamental to life on our planet and to our future, and stressed the particular importance of implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement and last November’s Glasgow Climate Pact to help ensure the health, productivity and… contribute to sustainable use and resilience of the ocean.

“We commit to halting and reversing the decline in the health of the ocean’s ecosystems and biodiversity, and to protecting and restoring its resilience and ecological integrity,” the Lisbon Declaration said. “We call for an ambitious, balanced, practical, effective, robust and transformative post-2020 global biodiversity framework.”

Resilient and healthy marine environments are the basis for climate regulation and sustainable development and have the potential to provide food and energy for billions of people.

At the conference, more than 100 member states voluntarily committed to conserving or protecting at least 30% of the global ocean in marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures by 2030.

“I am impressed by the new commitments” that countries have made, Mr Serpa Soares said during the closing ceremony, adding that “the commitments need to be implemented and monitored at a steady pace”.

Here are some examples:

  • Protect at least 30% of national seas by 2030
  • Achieve climate neutrality by 2040
  • Reduce plastic pollution
  • Increase the use of renewable energy
  • Allocate billions of dollars to ocean acidification research, climate resilience projects, and monitoring, control and monitoring.

A beach polluted by rubbish washed up by the sea.

UN News/Laura Quinones

A beach polluted by rubbish washed up by the sea.

Beyond 2030

The UN Decade of Marine Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) aims to build the science we need, for the ocean we want.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), whose mission is to generate and leverage knowledge for the transformative actions needed to ensure a healthy ocean by 2030 and beyond , safe and resilient ocean for sustainable development is the driving force behind the development of the Decade of Action.

To this end, the Decade framework aims to enable better-informed marine management, restore fish stocks and mobilize action for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

It also aims to reduce marine pollution of all kinds, be it terrestrial or marine in origin, ensure more effective marine protection, develop and implement climate change adaptation measures, reduce disaster risks and the impact of sea level rise as reducing emissions from of shipping.

Recognizing that developing countries, particularly small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries, face unique challenges, political leaders commit to stepping up data collection efforts and improving cooperation at all levels to share knowledge.

To Lisbon

Funding is another special aspect of reporting. The seven-page document points out that innovative financing solutions need to be found to support the transformation towards a sustainable sea-based economy and to develop nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches to support the resilience, restoration and conservation of coastal ecosystems.

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, stated that the conference had proved that the blue economy is now an important part of humanity’s future security and called for more funding to be allocated to it.

Noting that the Secretary-General had pushed for consensus, he described the declaration as a red alert for humanity, and Mr Thomson added that 2022 was proving to be a “super year” and urged young people to take part in any discussions on the future of the ocean, in the future.

Speaking to UN News, Miguel de Serpa Soares added that the UN Oceans Conference was not the only highlight of ocean action this year. “Over the next few months we will have several key events that will provide many opportunities to demonstrate our commitment and ambition to turn the tide on ocean sustainability.”

After the Lisbon event, the road to saving our oceans will continue through the Intergovernmental Conference on a Treaty on Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, negotiations on the global post-2020 biodiversity framework and negotiations on more climate finance and adaptation measures the COP27 in Egypt.


Young volunteers at the Ocean Conference in Lisbon.

UN News/Eleuterio Guevane

Young volunteers at the Ocean Conference in Lisbon.

Empowerment of youth, women and indigenous peoples

Recognizing the important role of indigenous, traditional and local knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples, as well as the role of the social sciences in planning, decision-making and implementation, leaders call for meaningful participation by local communities.

“Women and girls must be empowered, as their full, equal and meaningful participation is essential to make progress towards a sustainable sea-based economy and to achieve Goal 14,” underscores the statement, emphasizing the importance of young Empower people to meet the “need to contribute to ocean health, including in decision-making, by promoting and supporting quality education and lifelong learning in ocean knowledge.

The conference urged stakeholders to urgently show ambition and take concerted action to accelerate implementation to achieve Goal 14, concluding by saying that “reestablishing harmony with nature through a healthy ocean is important for the planet is of crucial importance”.

hope and urgency

Emboldened by a renewed sense of hope and urgency about our future ocean, Mr. Serpa Soares concluded, “As we abandon one another, we must honor our commitments.”

“As the famous Tongan and Fijian writer Epeli Hau’ofa said, we are the ocean. The ocean is within all of us, it sustains us and it is the basis for our future survival on planet earth,” he said.

The Power of Science

Building on the scientific focus of the week, UNESCO unveiled its State of the Oceans report on Friday.

The report is designed to provide new data on the current state of the oceans, structured around the 10 initial challenges of the decade.

The head of UNESCO’s Ocean Sciences Section, Henrik Enevoldsen, told UN News that the report complements the scientific work of the conference and strengthens our capacity to manage the oceans.

Referring to the conference outcomes, he said they “highlight areas where we need more knowledge to provide a proper basis for decision makers. [et] manage the ocean better”.

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