Scientist Statement for G7
SEVEN ASKS FOR THE G7
Why embracing the ocean is central to tackling climate disruption, supporting human wellbeing, and sustaining a successful recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the G7 has a unique opportunity to lead the global ocean protection and recovery needed to tackle climate disruption, reverse biodiversity loss, support human wellbeing, and embark on a successful, inspirational recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The threats facing our planet are connected. We cannot solve the climate or biodiversity crises if we ignore the ocean. To turn the tide in favor of humanity and a habitable planet we need to better understand the ocean, value it, and prioritize urgent action to protect it at the Earthscape level.
G7 nations have unparalleled capacity and political will to make this happen. Governments and communities across the world are signalling a determination to build a better, greener, and more equitable world after the pandemic is finally under control. The G7 meeting in Cornwall could be a turning point, where we see commitments to meaningful, united action for the ocean on a timeline that could actually make a difference. It is a chance to commit to integrated, science-based solutions that address the interconnectivity between the ocean, climate and biodiversity.
In this context, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) convened a virtual workshop of international scientists to highlight the critical importance of the ocean and outline a plan of action to ensure a sustainable ocean future for nature and people. The scientists identified 7 asks for the G7 to lead a stimulus package of policy and science interventions to stop damaging the ocean; protect and restore the ocean; and lead a decade of global ocean action.
STOP DAMAGING THE OCEAN
- Ban destructive extraction of ocean resources
- Unite to regulate and eliminate ocean pollution
PROTECT, MANAGE AND RESTORE THE OCEAN
- Expand effective ocean protection, management and restoration for people, biodiversity and climate
- Catalyze and coordinate action on ocean, carbon and climate
LEAD A DECADE OF GLOBAL OCEAN ACTION
- Prioritize nature-based solutions and support ocean science
- Close the gaps in ocean governance and finance
- Mainstream ocean education
STOP DAMAGING THE OCEAN
Ocean life is essential for a habitable planet – but it is fragile. Marine ecosystems should not be damaged to maximize profits for certain countries and companies. G7 states must urgently stop funding, supporting, or permitting highly destructive activities and redirect incentives towards positive outcomes that benefit people and the planet.
- BAN DESTRUCTIVE EXTRACTION OF OCEAN RESOURCES
- Immediately ban all new offshore oil and gas exploration and production, and rapidly phase out existing offshore oil and gas extraction using innovative financing and incentive mechanisms.
- Impose a precautionary freeze on all deep-sea mining until it can be proven that its techniques do not harm the ocean.
- Implement a ban on all bottom trawling and dredging on vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) and in all Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
- Prohibit all harmful fisheries subsidies, eliminate all fisheries subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and refrain from introducing new subsidies.
- Lead a collective science initiative, via the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable
Development, to study the impacts of deep-sea mining and assess the risk of significant adverse impacts and irreversible consequences.
- Respect the extensive scientific evidence that overfishing and bottom trawling and dredging damages the ocean and that demonstrates the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels to solve the climate crisis.
- UNITE TO REGULATE AND ELIMINATE OCEAN POLLUTION
- Reverse the burden of proof on all pollutants and take a precautionary approach, especially regarding new compounds with unknown impacts.
- Commit to negotiating a Global Plastics Treaty to reduce or eliminate unnecessary plastics, set global limits for virgin plastic production, and establish globally aligned standards.
- Establish and enact mandatory policies and regulations on anthropogenic noise in the ocean, accelerate the roll out of technology that reduces ocean noise, and align with related climate asks, e.g. on shipping.
- Support further research into how marine litter, particularly plastic, cycles in the ocean and interacts with the ocean’s physical and biological processes.
- Commence research aimed at increasing our understanding of the links between climate, plastics and other pollutants.
- Target micro- and nanoplastics in sampling studies.
- Require studies and impact assessments of new compounds prior to their release into the ocean, including potential impacts on both human health and marine ecosystems.
PROTECT, MANAGE AND RESTORE THE OCEAN
Less than 8% of the global ocean currently lies within a MPA but only 2.7% is being fully or highly protected, in sharp contrast to the at least 30% in high or full protection called for by the scientific community. Meanwhile, the ocean is bearing the brunt of regulating our planet’s temperature, alongside its role as a vast carbon sink, thus ensuring a habitable Earth. The G7 should lead the way in agreeing ambitious global ocean protection and restoration targets and coordinate their implementation with climate and biodiversity policy, taking an Earthscape approach that recognizes the inter-connectivity between climate change, carbon sequestration, and ecosystems.
- EXPAND OCEAN PROTECTION, MANAGEMENT, AND RESTORATION FOR PEOPLE, CLIMATE AND BIODIVERSITY
- Agree – and take coordinated action to ensure – that by 2030 at least 30% of the ocean is within implemented, actively managed fully or highly protected areas, with the remaining 70% sustainably and precautionarily managed, and raise ambitions to achieve 50% ocean protection in the near future.
- Establish mechanisms for designating MPAs that not only target biodiversity but can help mitigate or adapt to climate change (e.g. carbon stores) and proactively create networks of MPAs focussed on climate mitigation and resilience.
- Sustainably manage fisheries to make them more viable, less damaging to ecosystems, and of benefit to the greatest number of people, and integrate climate into fishing policies.
- Support studies into the role of MPAs to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
- Encourage research aimed at increasing our understanding of the added value of connected MPA networks, including increased adaptation to climate change and improved fisheries outcomes.
- Set up a global inventory of restored marine habitats and track progress towards national and global targets, ensuring restoration follows best practice scientific methods.
- Increase funding for long-term ocean observation and establish new and improved marine biodiversity monitoring to enhance our capacity to measure trends, enable climate modelling, and improve MPA design.
- Expand the coverage and number of variables measured by Argo floats and deploy equivalent deep ocean and sea shelf remote sampling systems.
- COORDINATE ACTION ON OCEAN, CARBON AND CLIMATE
- Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions beyond Paris Agreement targets, with a focus on CO2 and methane.
- Recognize the climate impact of all GHG generating activities in the ocean, e.g. bottom trawling and dredging on the seabed, and include emissions from these activities in carbon accounting.
- Incentivize alternative methods to increase renewable energy use that do not require deep sea mining for minerals.
- Coordinate the implementation of MPA management plans with climate change and carbon storage strategies to improve environmental policy, value for money, and transparency.
- Protect what we have by conserving the carbon sequestration capacity of the ocean, e.g. the mesopelagic pump, and carbon buried in seafloor sediments.
- Increase global funding for ocean monitoring and research into changes in the ocean and their implications for the future direction of climate change.
- Support the mapping and quantification of “blue carbon” stocks to enhance understanding of how to use marine protection to support the Paris Agreement and NDCs, and how to convert blue carbon conservation into sustainable financing mechanisms.
- Initiate a global study of the Earth System services of the deep ocean with a particular emphasis on climate mitigation and provisioning.
- Strengthen support for the Continuous Plankton Recorder, the longest running study of ocean plankton and change, and establish new monitoring in the large area of the ocean not covered at present to improve our understanding of plankton and their links to climate change.
LEAD A DECADE OF GLOBAL OCEAN ACTION
G7 states are uniquely placed to champion the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and create the conditions needed to drive a decade of global action. As major economies, the G7 has the unparalleled resources and responsibility to provide leadership, coordinating capacity, and financial support to deliver the joined-up science, governance and finance we need for a healthy, productive, resilient ocean that benefits and inspires humankind.
- PRIORITIZE MARINE NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS AND SUPPORT OCEAN SCIENCE
- Prioritize nature-based solutions in ocean and climate-related policies.
- Scale up solutions to the Earthscape level by coordinating policy, financing, and research at the supra-national level to support the recovery of nature, on land, in fresh water, and in the neglected ocean.
- Each G7 Head of State to commit to host one of the seven key Outcome Areas of the UN Decade of Ocean Science, agreeing to support it financially and in kind in partnership with a country in the Global South.
- Allocate increased funding to target the science priorities identified in the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
- Address inequities and imbalances in funding and regional capacity in marine science, including action to counter the “brain drain” of scientists from the Global South.
- Support research into the “rights of nature” and how to incorporate them into national and international law.
- CLOSE THE GAPS IN OCEAN GOVERNANCE AND FINANCE
- Agree upon a robust, binding High Seas Treaty for ocean biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) with maximum protections, including mechanisms for establishing high seas MPAs, in line with best scientific advice.
- Recognize the climate governance gap in the high seas and address the problem that UNFCCC jurisdiction ends at the edge of the EEZ.
- Push for major reform of Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMOs) to adopt global standards and introduce systems for closing high seas regions to fishing if RFMOs do not fulfil their mandates, in order to allow ecosystems and species time to recover.
- Agree upon financing arrangements to support the implementation of the BBNJ Treaty and Convention on Biological Diversity Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.
- Close the blind spot for nature in global economics by increasing public funding and establishing an integrated, equitable and just finance mechanism to support ocean, climate and biodiversity targets globally.
- Support the uptake of nature-based solutions in infrastructure finance and facilitate private-sector engagement, while ensuring equity and transparency in ocean-based investments.
- Ensure that the growing Blue Economy improves ocean health and prevents damage to ecosystems and underlying services.
- ADVANCE OCEAN EDUCATION
- Support a global public and government information campaign to educate decision-makers and citizens on the important links between the ocean, climate change, biodiversity, and their immense value for human health and well-being.
- Agree to global standards for ocean literacy in schools.
- Establish and implement a G7-wide ocean literacy program and promote its global roll out.
- Humanize the new ocean narrative by focusing economic development on the objective of increasing human well-being.
- Support studies aimed at enhancing our understanding of behaviour change pathways and the consequences of the language used around ocean issues.
- Understand the effectiveness of ocean literacy programs in building a more ocean-friendly society.
A group of scientists were involved in the workshop and in authoring the full publication which is still ongoing. Those signing up to this briefing version are (list being updated all the time):
Dr Diva Amon
Director and Founder of SpeSeas, Trinidad and Tobago
Scientific Associate, Natural History Museum, London, UK
Marine Biologist and Marine Conservation and Policy Advisor
Fins Attached Marine Research and Conservation, Costa Rica
Professor Julia K. Baum
President’s Chair, Ocean Ecology and Global Change, University of Victoria, Canada
Professor John Baxter
Member of Board of Trustees at Scottish Association for Marine Science
Honorary Professor, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK
Dr Joachim Claudet
National Center for Scientific Research, Paris, France
Dr Antonio Di Franco
Senior Researcher at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Department of Integrative Marine Ecology, Sicily, Palermo, Italy
Dr Craig Downs
Executive Director at Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, USA
Dr Susanna Fuller
Oceans North, Halifax, Canada
Kristina M. Gjerde
Adjunct Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, USA
Professor Jason Hall-Spencer
School of Marine and Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, UK
Shimoda Marine Research Center, University of Tsukuba, Japan
Professor Kazuo Inaba
Shimoda Marine Research Center, University of Tsukuba, Japan
Dr Heather Koldewey
Co-Founder and Field Conservation Manager, Project Seahorse
Senior Technical Advisor, Zoological Society of London
National Geographic Explorer
Honorary Professor, University of Exeter, UK
Professor Dan Laffoley
Principal Advisor, Marine Science and Conservation, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, UK
Marine Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, Switzerland
Professor Lisa Levin
Integrative Oceanography Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, USA
Professor Marco Milazzo
Professor of Marine Ecology
Department of Earth and Marine Sciences (DiSTeM), University of Palermo, Italy
Professor Philip Chris Reid
Professor of Oceanography at the School of Biological and Marine Sciences at the University of Plymouth, UK
Professor Callum Roberts
Professor of Marine Conservation in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, UK
Professor Alex David Rogers
Science Director at REV Ocean
Visiting Professor, University of Oxford, UK
Dr Michelle Taylor
Director of Marine Biology, School of Life Sciences, University of Essex, UK
Senior Research Associate, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam
Founder, Global Ocean Trust, Germany
Dr Lucy Woodall
Senior Research Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford,
Principal Scientist, Nekton Foundation, Oxford, UK
For further information about this statement or to contact the authors, you can get in touch with Mirella@stateoftheocean.org
New IPSO Report – Protecting a rapidly changing ocean
Evolving the narrative for protecting a rapidly changing ocean, post COVID-19 was published in the peer review Journal Aquatic Conservation in November 2020.
Authors: Laffoley, D. , Baxter, J.M. , Amon, D.J. , Claudet, J ., Hall-Spencer, J.M. , Grorud-Colvert, K. , Levin, L.A. , Reid, P.C. , Rogers, A.D. , Taylor, M.L. , Woodall, L.C. and Andersen, N.F.
A new IPSO paper by an international team of marine scientists in the peer review journal Aquatic Conservation calls for an urgent change in the way we think about the ocean in order to improve understanding and action in its defence.
Although the health of the ocean is deteriorating swiftly and to the detriment of humankind, very little is done to address the situation. The authors point to the absence of consideration of the ocean in most discussions about a post COVID world and believe that the global-scale policy change needed will not be forthcoming without an improved understanding about the role of the ocean in our lives. “Words, and how we express our connection to the ocean, clearly matter now more than ever before,” they write.
“Evolving the narrative for protecting a rapidly changing ocean, post COVID-19,” is for decision makers; scientists and NGOs in the ocean and climate fields and breaks ground in recognising how an effective use of language can change the trajectory of ocean decline. It makes six, scientifically informed points which everyone should understand and act on:
- All life is dependent on the ocean.
- By harming the ocean, we harm ourselves.
- By protecting the ocean, we protect ourselves.
- Humans, the ocean, biodiversity, and climate are inextricably linked.
- Ocean and climate action must be undertaken together.
- Reversing ocean change needs action now.
Lead Author of the report, Professor Dan Laffoley says: “These may seem simple, but decision makers do not act as if they were true. Humanity cannot survive without a healthy ocean performing the services that make our planet habitable and allow us to live. We have to understand that the one ocean of our planet is vital to our existence so let’s start talking about it in those terms.”
The authors hope that improving knowledge about the role of the ocean in our lives – something, for example, which is not featured in many school curricula – will increase the attention paid to the ocean and the urgency with which action is taken. Professor Alex Rogers, a co-author and Scientific Director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean which convened the scientists, said: “We have to speak with one, accurate voice and speak loudly. The science must be heard but it must be understood in the context of achieving humanity’s full potential or we will not see the scale of action needed.”
The first, most basic step that the scientists point to is for the ocean to be recognized as a single entity. There is only one ocean, it has different areas with different habitats and names, but it is all connected and works as a whole to make all life on Earth possible. As such, it should only ever be referred to in the singular. Dan Laffoley: “These kind of steps are important because they change the way people understand the ocean and, for example, the fact that damage in one part of the ocean can circulate and bring harm to another part – it’s all connected.”
The report includes a synthesis of key ocean functions and the changes tracked by science and is emphatic that action must be taken now in response to the scale and accelerating nature of the change and argue that we need a joined- up, whole ocean response to climate and biodiversity.
The authors say that we need a ‘plan B for ocean recovery’ as downward step-changes in ocean health dramatically impact humanity. They call for a new ‘Marshall-style’ plan for the ocean, akin to the ambition and drive used to rebuild societies after World War 2.
The paper is published in Aquatic Conservation on November 25th and will also be available on the IPSO website
The report was supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch)
A range of assets are available to assist groups with implementing the narratives recommended in the paper.
New IPSO Viewpoint Paper published July 2019
IPSO experts have called for a ‘precautionary pause’ in deep-sea mining and closure of one-third of the ocean among eight actions they say are needed to head off potential ecological disaster in the global ocean amid signs of steeper and faster changes than even recent models predicted.
A new paper published on 24 July in Aquatic Conservation says that failure to take action in the next 10 years to halt damage caused by unprecedented rates of climate heating and other human activities could result in catastrophic changes in the functioning of the global ocean, threatening vital ecosystems and disrupting human civilisation.
The paper is based on a workshop held in London in December 2018 at which a multi-disciplinary team of marine scientists and experts in law, policy and finance reviewed and synthesised the findings of 131 peer-reviewed scientific papers on ocean change (120 from the past five years) in order to assess changes occurring and the consequences of inaction.
The resulting assessment says diminished marine food-chain production, reduced ability to store carbon, sinking oxygen levels, and the possible release of stored heat back into the atmosphere are among a slew of changes, either underway or evidenced as possible, in a global ocean under mass assault from human activity.
The paper says: “We are witnessing an increase in ocean heat, disturbance, acidification, bio-invasions and nutrients, and reducing oxygen. Several of these act like ratchets: once detrimental or negative changes have occurred, they may lock in place and may not be reversible, especially at gross ecological and ocean process scales.”
The highest priority remains to rigorously address global heating and limit surface temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100. However, measures should be implemented to prepare for a 2-3oC temperature rise. Climate breakdown impacts in the ocean are described as ‘pervasive and accelerating’ and the pre-eminent factor driving change in the ocean.
The call for a precautionary moratorium on deep-sea mining comes as the International Seabed Authority holds its annual meeting amid mounting concern that mining activity could disrupt carbon stores in seafloor sediments, reducing the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide and mitigate the effects of the climate emergency. The other priorities are urgently to:
- secure a robust, comprehensive High Seas Treaty with a Conference of Parties and a Scientific Committee; and reformed voting rights on bodies such as the International Seabed Authority to stop vested interests undermining the precautionary approach;
- enforce existing standards for effective marine protected areas (MPAs), and in particular fully protected marine reserves, and extend their scope to fully protect at least 30% of the ocean, including representation of all habitats and the high seas, while ensuring effective management to prevent significant adverse effects for 100% of the rest of the ocean;
- end overfishing and destructive practices including illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing;
- radically reduce marine water pollution, including nitrogen fertilisers and sewage as well as plastics;
- provide a financing mechanism for ocean management and protection, and tax unsustainable activities to remove costs to the global commons and fund innovation and adaptation;
- scale-up scientific research on the ocean and increase transparency and accessibility of ocean data from all sources (i.e. science, government, industry). Increasing the understanding of heat absorption and heat release from the sea to the atmosphere should be a research priority – the UN Decade of Ocean Science beginning in 2021 is a key opportunity to achieve this step change
Lead author Professor Dan Laffoley of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said: “Marine life is threatened with suffocation, starvation, overheating and acid corrosion under current climate impacts. The situation is only getting worse. We need to act on climate change but also, urgently build resilience. All life on Earth is at risk from ocean collapse. This paper sets out eight practical but ambitious steps that need to be implemented simultaneously in order to help prevent that.”
Co-author Professor Callum Roberts of York University said: “We have about 10 years to act. Tipping points in ocean decline are now significantly more likely to happen if action is not taken now, and there is a great opportunity to make this happen. The Paris Climate Agreement comes into force in 2020 with its implementation plan; negotiations for the UN Treaty on biodiversity protection beyond national jurisdiction are scheduled to be completed by 2020; and an ocean Sustainable Development Goal has targets that are to be delivered by 2020. Seizing these policy opportunities and bringing these global efforts together must bear fruit.”
Further quotes from authors:
Rashid Sumaila, Fisheries Economics Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries & Liu Institute for Global Issues, The University of British Columbia, Canada
“This report makes plain that at a minimum we must fully implement The Paris Agreement. Action on climate is good for fish, fishers, fish workers and seafood consumers. Also, we must get a robust High Seas Treaty. Fish do not respect national borders; this means that the effective management of the high seas is crucial for the health of the global ocean. “
Alex Rogers, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK
“The seas are now changing faster and in more ways than at any other time in human history. Before long, some changes will become irreversible on meaningful human timescales. The impacts are affecting some of the most important places on Earth to human survival, including low lying coasts that are home to 10% of the world’s population and some of the most productive agricultural lands. We urgently need to deploy the very best of our management tools across the sea to the very best of our ability: MPAs, fisheries management measures, habitat restoration, pollution reduction, while we swiftly implement the Paris Agreement. We also must address capacity building as this is a major barrier to equitable sustainable ocean governance. The science is clear: the time for indecision and uncertainty is behind us.”
Torsten Thiele of Global Ocean Trust
“To rapidly deliver the actions proposed an adequate and comprehensive funding mechanism aligned with broader sustainable finance efforts needs to be put in place.“
Craig Downs, Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, Clifford, Virginia, USA
“While there is little that communities living near coral reefs can do to stop global warming, there is a lot they
can do to reduce nitrogen run-off and poorly or untreated sewage release. Our study shows that the fight to preserve coral reefs requires local AND global action.”
Jason-Hall Spencer, School of Marine and Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, UK
“Carbon dioxide emissions are not only causing mass extinctions of coral reefs due to heat waves, they are also driving down the amounts of life-giving oxygen in the water and making it more corrosive to organisms with shells or skeletons, such as deep-sea coral reefs. It is abundantly clear that the time has now come to build resilience in coastal waters, for example by rapidly reigning in on damaging fishing practices, to restore ocean health. We also must not ignore international commitments that come into force in 2020 such as the Paris Climate Agreement, the United Nations Treaty on biodiversity protection on the High Seas and the ocean Sustainable Development Goals, such as an urgent need to reduce ocean acidification.”
IPSO is cooperating with NGOs and other bodies in the run up to the 25th UNFCCC climate change meeting (COP25) in Chile on 2 to 13 December 2019.
IPSO is currently collaborating with the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme and World Commission on Protected Areas and XL Catlin to investigate the underlying hazards, vulnerabilities, and risks associated with a rapidly changing ocean, while identifying the probable impacts that these may have on elements critical to the future health and wellbeing of communities.
IPSO is currently exploring a pilot ecotoxicology project called MarineSafe, which is examining personal care products for common ingredients that are suspected to be harmful to the marine environment and considering new protocols and approaches to tackle this area of pollution.
IPSO is working with organisations to implement the Global Coral Repository or Coral Ark, which will act as a ‘seed bank’ to protect and replace corals lost through ocean warming and acidification, as well as wild-harvesting and natural, catastrophic events.
Alex D. Rogers led an NERC-funded cruise to the South West Indian Ocean to study the biodiversity of seamount ecosystems. Samples taken on the cruise were found to be contaminated with microplastic particles as great as 1,500m deep. Follow-up studies by project partners in the Natural History Museum, London quantified the microplastic particles indicating that the deep sea was likely a major repository of plastics sinking from the ocean surface. It appears the deep sea is a major sink for plastics entering the ocean from land. Another study arising from the same cruise and additional sampling campaigns also identified large quantities of plastic and other debris in the deep ocean. This varied in origin depending on the location with fishing related materials found on the seamounts of the South West Indian Ocean and waste from shipping and land being found in the North Atlantic.
Deep-sea science for society
Alex D. Rogers led the European Marine Board study Delving Deeper: Critical Challenges for 21st Century Deep-Sea Science. The study reviews existing human activities and impacts in the deep sea and identifies the potential growth of several new industries such as deep-sea mining being promoted through the EU Blue Growth agenda. Following consultation with scientists, research funders and industry it is concluded that there is a critical need for baseline research to allow the development of management plans that ensure sustainable exploitation of deep-sea resources and the monitoring of the effects of such activities in the deep sea. The report also identifies shortfalls in infrastructure for deep-sea science and that funding should be on a scale more akin to large-scale space projects given the large size of deep-sea ecosystems and the large gaps in knowledge. Other areas requiring attention include the filling of important legal gaps (e.g. legal framework for MPAs on the high seas) and training of future marine scientists.