The United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC) took place last month, bringing together all 193 UN Member States to unanimously commit to the “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility: Lisbon Declaration” to progress Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14) – Life Below Water – and commit to reversing the decline in ocean ecosystem health.
Sinclair Vincent, Verra’s Director of Sustainable Development Innovation and Markets, gives her top five takeaways from the conference:
1. There Is No Climate Action Without Ocean Action
This year’s conference showed that the role of blue carbon is finally being recognized as a crucial part of the solution to mitigate climate change. As the largest carbon sink in the world, the ocean is a powerful tool for climate action. Blue carbon refers to carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems, and the conservation and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems was recognized in many of the voluntary commitments announced during the conference.
2. The Importance of Ocean Finance
Despite the ocean’s vital role in preserving life on Earth, SDG14 remains the most underfunded of all the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as highlighted by the World Economic Forum’s SDG14 Financing Landscape Scan.
To achieve the commitments made at UNOC, an increase in much-needed private-sector investment into SDG14 will support effective marine and coastal management.
SD VISta helps to close this fiscal gap by driving finance, including from the private sector, toward high-performing projects that advance the SDGs to progress ocean conservation.
3. The Value of Biodiversity
The ocean is home to up to 80% of the world’s biodiversity, yet it faces unprecedented threats from marine pollution and acidification to overexploitation of fish stocks.
The UNOC declaration importantly adopted a call for an “ambitious, balanced, practical, effective, robust, and transformative” Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to enable the management, protection, and restoration of marine environments, in preparation for the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15) in December.
4. The Future of Ocean Action
An exciting development at this year’s conference was the inclusion of younger generations’ voices at the Youth and Innovation Forum, a platform to provide the knowledge, tools, and inspiration for young innovators to help progress ocean protection.
Youth-led solutions remain at the forefront of the acceleration to achieve SDG14. We must continue to support the development of young leaders that drive the future of ocean action, as their generations will experience most of the consequences of the outcomes of the UN Ocean Conference.
5. Less Talk, More Action
Finally, the voluntary commitments made by nations at UNOC are a promising demonstration of increasing recognition for ocean protection. However, identifying the actions needed to conserve our oceans is not enough. Countries must follow up on the implementation of these voluntary commitments and work together to advance the discussions at UNOC to transform shared ambition into action to scale up ocean restoration.