The oceans are responsible for the air we breathe, the biggest part of the world’s biodiversity and for the world economy as we know it. Highlighting the importance of the world’s oceans, the 8th of June 2022 marks the UN World Ocean Day.
elebrated under the theme “Revitalization: collective action for the ocean”, this day reminds us that preserving the world’s oceans depends on our present actions. What is the role of business to the fight for ocean preservation?
Oceans and the world economy: Key facts
- 59.6 million people in the world were engaged in fisheries and aquaculture in 2016.
- An estimated 40 million people will be employed by ocean-based industries by 2030, according to OECD.
- 76% of all US trade involves some form of marine transportation.
- The US ocean economy produces $282 billion in goods and services and ocean-dependent businesses employ almost three million people.
However, increasingly demanding humanity’s progress has led to mounting pressures for the oceans, with challenges like climate change, pollution and lack of awareness continuing to put maritime resources at risk. The current energy consuming model is not sustainable, which means that people are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished. UN estimates that currently 90% of big fish populations have been depleted.
3 challenges facing the world’s oceans
#1 Underwater noise: Being a form of pollution we can’t see, the noise caused by shipping, oil and gas, and military sonar is hugely disruptive. It can prevent animals from finding food, meeting a mate, and detecting predators, thus threatening their survival.
#2 Climate change: Increasing global temperatures are already showing their huge impact on oceans, having killed already 50% of coral reefs. Meanwhile, ocean acidification, caused by increased CO2 in the atmosphere, is dissolving the shells of animals such as oysters, shrimp, and lobsters and is having other widespread effects on marine life.
#3 Plastics and ocean debris: Plastics make up 85% of marine litter globally and are even reaching people’s dinner tables through the food chain. The largest accumulation of ocean plastic can be found in the North Pacific, between Hawaii and California, and is no other than the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). The GPGP covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square km, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France. A study by the Dutch Foundation “The Ocean Cleanup” found more than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch, a number equivalent to 250 pieces of debris for every human.
Latest initiatives against plastics pollution
-The Port of Rotterdam revealed plans to commence construction of a plant, within 2022, that will convert 20,000 tons of non-mechanically recyclable plastic into high-quality sustainable raw material annually.
-Earlier in May, BIMCO, the largest of the international shipping association, joined the IMO’s GloLitter Partnerships Project as a strategic partner.
-In February, partners of the Clean Oceans Initiative committed to double the target of €2 billion by the end of 2025. Clean Oceans is the largest common initiative dedicated to funding projects aimed at reducing plastic pollution at sea.
-From June 1st, French container ship giant CMA CGM announced it would no longer be transporting any plastic waste aboard its ships.
-Last November, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced US support for a world-wide agreement to “combat ocean plastic pollution” at the UN Environmental Assembly.
On World Oceans Day 2022
On the occasion of World Ocean’s Day, the UN Global Compact reminds that private sector engagement is a major variable in the fight for healthy oceans and has summarized several recent initiatives devoted to ocean preservation:
- A Blueprint for a Climate-Smart Ocean to Meet 1.5°C, including key recommendations for businesses to leverage ocean-based climate solutions, in four action areas, which include zero-emission maritime transport.
- A specific brief by UN Global Compact outlines a set of key actions and recommendations for business leaders and policy makers to accelerate shipping decarbonization in line with a 1.5°C trajectory.
- A Roadmap to Integrate Clean Offshore Renewable Energy into Climate-smart Marine Spatial Planning
In a bid to address some of the issues above, the UN Global Compact has also produced, in consultation with over 300 stakeholders, the Sustainable Ocean Principles, providing a sustainability framework for responsible business practices. By endorsing the principles, companies can demonstrate their commitment to ocean sustainability to all key stakeholders.
The 9 Sustainable Ocean Principles
The principles extent to three areas:
-Ocean health and productivity
Principle 1: Assess the short and long-term impact of their activities on ocean health and incorporate such impacts into their strategy and policies.
Principle 2: Consider sustainable business opportunities that promote or contribute to restoring, protecting or maintaining ocean health and productivity and livelihoods dependent on the ocean.
Principle 3: Take action to prevent pollution affecting the ocean, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their operations to prevent ocean warming and acidification, and work towards a circular economy.
Principle 4: Plan and manage their use of and impact on marine resources and space in a manner that ensures long-term sustainability and take precautionary measures where their activities may impact vulnerable marine and coastal areas and the communities that are dependent upon them.
-Governance and engagement
Principle 5: Engage responsibly with relevant regulatory or enforcement bodies on ocean-related laws, regulations and other frameworks.
Principle 6: Follow and support the development of standards and best practices that are recognized in the relevant sector or market contributing to a healthy and productive ocean and secure livelihoods.
Principle 7: Respect human-, labour- and indigenous peoples’ rights in the company’s ocean-related activities, including exercise appropriate due diligence in their supply-chain, consult and engage with relevant stakeholders and communities in a timely, transparent and inclusive manner, and address identified impacts.
-Data and transparency
Principle 8: Where appropriate, share relevant scientific data to support research on and mapping of relevance to the ocean.
Principle 9: Be transparent about their ocean-related activities, impacts and dependencies in line with relevant reporting frameworks.
Did you know?
This year, the United Nations will host the first hybrid celebration of the annual event on 8 June 2022, hosted in-person at the UN Headquarters in New York to be broadcasted live.