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Why the One Ocean Summit?

The One Ocean Summit took place in Brest from February 9-11 with scientists, economic actors, and international politicians there to take engagements to reinforce the international governance of the ocean. This summit was prepared in cooperation with the United Nations and the World Bank to integrate within the framework of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the initiative of the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron.

What are the motivations of this first international summit dedicated to the preservation of the ocean?

An entire chapter of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on August 9, 2021 is devoted to changes in the ocean, from sea level to the cryosphere. Indeed, the ocean has a central place as a driver and regulator of the Earth’s climate. Thus, the severe consequences of changes related to climate disruption include sea level rise, the state of marine biodiversity, but also major societal impacts. For decades, many sectors have seen the seabed as a well of resources to be exploited, leading to a progressive deterioration and to reflections on our relationship with the natural environment. Thus, the One Ocean Summit was intended to share knowledge and cross perspectives in order to give a strong political impetus to the European and international agenda on maritime issues and to anticipate oceanic crises.

On February 9th and 10th, the event focused on a series of workshops, forums, and roundtables. On February 11, the heads of the states and the representatives gathered to share their ambitions. The protection of marine biodiversity, the multiplication of biosphere reserves, the acceleration of scientific research, the exploration of seabeds, the fight against plastic pollution, the international coalition, and decarbonization constituted the order of the summit.

“We need an accord that assures the highest possible level of ambition” claimed John Kerry, an American politician in charge of the fight against global warming.

What are the main commitments?

  • Continue the creation of protected marine areas and support the world objective of 30% of areas protected by 2030 in the new world strategy of biodiversity that will be adopted at COP15 Biodiversity. In this regard, the French Committee of the IUCN welcomes the achievement by France of this objective through the extension of the French Southern Territories Nature Reserve.

  • Ursula von der Leyen announced the launch of a coalition composed of the 27 Member States of the EU and 13 other countries for the conclusion of an ambitious treaty designed to protect the high seas. The negotiations around the treaty began in 2018 under the guidance of the UN, but had been interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The fourth and theoretically last session of negotiations is scheduled for March in New York.

  • With 9 million tons of plastic discarded in the oceans each year, the fight against plastic pollution has reached a consensus to initiate the drafting of a binding international treaty at UNEA 5 to be held in late February in Nairobi. In addition, European public funding will combine their resources for an amount of 4 billion euros by 2025, under the "Clean Oceans Initiative".

  • The creation of Green Marine Europe, a European label for the ecological commitment of shipowners involving concrete measures concerning atmospheric emissions, the management of residual materials, submarine noise, and ship recycling (22 European shipowners have been awarded the label or are candidates for it, according to the Ministry of the Sea).

UNESCO is committed to having 80% of the seabed mapped by 2030. 3 axes have been defined to reach this objective at a cost of 5 billion euros:

  • The mobilization of a fleet of 50 vessels specifically dedicated to mapping

  • The intensification of the use of sonar on autonomous vessels

  • Government and corporate transmissions of map data

As for that, some scientists remain on their guard, fearing that these explorations aim to become exploitations.

France has reiterated its willingness to act at the national level, in particular by committing to treat within 10 years the abandoned landfills on its coasts that present risks of plastic discharge.

Other topics were highlighted such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime sector, not covered by the Paris Climate Agreement, or the preservation of the Antarctic or the elimination of public subsidies that encourage overfishing and illegal fishing currently discussed at the World Trade Organization.

The One Ocean Summit marks the beginning of the year 2022, opening a series of international events including the BBNJ (Biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction) negotiations in March in New York, UNEA 5, the Palau conference, the COP 15 Biodiversity, the United Nations Conference on the Ocean in June in Lisbon for the COP 27 for the climate in Sharm el Sheikh. The commitments made in Brest must be honored and concretized according to the French Committee of the IUCN.

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