At the Feb. 9-10 One Planet Summit, an initiative of French president Emmanuel Macron to mobilize the international community to take action on the numerous issues currently threatening the world’s oceans, more than 30 events addressed topics of global scope and to propose solutions beyond the existing status assessments.
The summit promoted initiatives for the sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources and laid the groundwork for commitments to be made at major international events in 2022, such as the United Nations Environment Conference in Lisbon in June.
The initiatives included an announcement by the European Union to produce a “Digital Twin of the Ocean” to gather knowledge and test scenarios for action, supporting European growth and global governance. Such a digital twin will allow an integrated model of the oceans to be built, allowing researchers to investigate the impact of physics, chemistry, marine life and human activities and, importantly, will inform political decisions and track their effects.
UNESCO has pledged to map at least 80 percent of the seabed by 2030, compared to 20 percent currently, with the support of its member states and the private sector. In another development, more than 30 mayors and governors of coastal cities from around the world, ranging from from Stockholm to Bangkok, Jakarta and Lagos, signed the Sea’ties Declaration at the Summit. This Declaration urges national governments and the international community to intensify mitigation and adaptation measures to limit the impacts of sea-level rise on coastal cities, their territories and communities.
The French Development Agency and the European Investment Bank also committed to reducing plastic pollution in the ocean with the launch of the Clean Oceans Initiative, as well as providing 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) in funding together with the development banks of France, Germany, Italy and Spain by 2025 to support projects to reduce plastic waste, while Nestlé SA announced a reduction of one third in its use of plastics as well as a commitment to reach 100 percent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.
The goal of the high-level gathering Feb. 11 was even more purposeful. A smaller group of heads of state, leaders of multilateral institutions, business leaders and civil society policymakers met with the aim of making a number of ambitious commitments. Several important initiatives were launched regarding marine ecosystem protection and sustainable fisheries, intended to fight pollution, in particular from plastics, respond to the impacts of climate change, as well as advocate for improved governance of the oceans.
Among others, more than 30 additional countries joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People launched at the One Planet Summit in January 2021. Today, 84 countries aim to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and sea by 2030. Commitments were also made to step up the fight against illegal fishing; the tourism sector advocated the implementation of a blue economy and eleven governments announced plans to join the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The Ellen MacArthur Foundation leads the engagement with the private sector (the business signatories and endorsers), and UNEP leads the engagement with the governments.
The new members of the initiative are the national governments of Canada, Colombia, Greece, Italy, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Spain and Uganda and sub-national level governments of the City of Paris; region of Central Greece; and the Basque Country. “We will not recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis: we need a systemic transformation to achieve the transition to a circular economy,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director.
“Let’s congratulate these new members of the Global Commitment in showing their leadership to combat plastic pollution,” said Ms Andersen.