UN Ocean Conference : a state of emergency is declared

The first time the United Nations decided to dedicate a high-level conference to the Ocean was in New York in 2017. Five years later, the health of the oceans is of greater concern to the international community than ever before and is back in the spotlight, with the 2nd United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC) that has just concluded in Lisbon. Nearly 7,000 participants, 24 heads of state and governments, and more than 2,000 representatives of civil society, including The SeaCleaners, took part. Eight days of events, a dense official program, a youth and innovation forum, and a plethora of side events helped to raise awareness about the oceans.

Say NO to easy

Just like COP26 in Glasgow, the event was resolutely oriented towards the search for solutions and the identification of concrete actions, around a common thread: “Strengthening ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: assessment, partnerships and solutions“. The Ocean is in a dire situation and the eight interactive dialogues (1) of the Conference, during which stakeholders meet to agree on the formulation of ‘concept papers’, set the tone.

Among the eight dialogues, The SeaCleaners’ scientific hub was particularly interested in theme n°1, the fight against marine pollution. In this context, physicist Dr. Richard Thompson put his finger on the difficulty that the scientific community is facing in understanding how plastic pollution pollutes the ocean. This subject is as thorny as it is fundamental to effectively fight against this scourge. He explained: “Marine plastic waste is often presented as a pernicious problem. Indeed, they are very heterogeneous in their form, their composition, their harmfulness, their source. So many methods are used to study it, and the most important thing is not the standardization of methods but to answer the fundamental questions we are facing in order to reduce its impacts on ecosystems and human health.”  The urgency is such and the problem so complex that a simple and standardized answer is impossible. It can only be multiple and localized.

The SeaCleaners meets French President, Emmanuel Macron

The SeaCleaners had the opportunity to speak with the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, about the commitments of France (the second largest maritime domain in the world) in the fight against plastic pollution. Positively surprising the NGOs present, the head of state declared in conference: “I think we need to develop a legal framework to stop deep-sea mining and not allow new activities that would endanger ecosystems”, before announcing that France would host the third United Nations conference on the ocean in 2025, alongside Costa Rica.

I don’t think it’s too late (to act) but it’s the ultimate moment,” he concluded, referring to the upcoming biodiversity summit in Montreal in December, COP215, during which the equivalent of the Paris Agreement for biodiversity is to be signed.

It is not too late to act in favor of the ocean… This feeling was widely shared in Lisbon by the participants of the Conference, but how to achieve it? We need a total change in our way of life, as the famous oceanographer Sylvia Earle said: “The real champions of the future will be those who know how to live in harmony with nature and use what we already have. Instead of cutting up the earth for raw materials, why not use the piles of garbage we have accumulated – they are gold mines.”

As a full-service aquatic cleanup company, The SeaCleaners is proud to contribute to this collective global effort by working on all fronts, from preserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems to educating and increasing scientific knowledge for ocean conservation and sustainability.

The main progress of the Lisbon Declaration

  • “Protecting our Planet”: this fund, which brings together philanthropic organizations from around the world, will invest at least $1 billion to support the creation, expansion and management of marine protected areas and marine and coastal areas managed by indigenous and local communities by 2030.
  • The European Investment Bank will provide an additional €150 million to the Caribbean under the Clean Oceans Initiative to improve climate resilience, water management and solid waste management.
  • The Global Environment Facility approved a $25 million grant for marine protected areas in Colombia.
  • The Development Bank of Latin America announced a voluntary commitment of $1.2 billion to support ocean projects in the region.
  • The Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance announced a multi-million dollar global search for the next generation of projects to build resilience in coastal communities and fund financing and insurance products.
Marine Protected Areas & Pollution
  • Portugal has committed to ensuring that 100% of the marine area under Portuguese sovereignty or jurisdiction is assessed as being in good ecological status and to classify 30% of the national marine areas by 2030.
  • Kenya is currently developing an inclusive and multi-stakeholder National Blue Economy Strategic Plan. The country has also committed to developing a national action plan on marine plastic waste.
  • India has committed to a campaign for clean seas on the coastline and will work to ban single-use plastics, starting with plastic bags.
Science & innovation
  • Sweden will support the strengthening of scientific cooperation, including by providing US$ 400,000 in 2022 to IOC-UNESCO for the UN Decade of Oceanography for Sustainable Development, to support work on target 3 of SDG 14 (combating ocean acidification).
  • The Alliance of Small Island Developing States launched the Declaration on Improving Marine Scientific Knowledge, Research Capacity and Technology Transfer to Small Island Developing States.
Climate Action
  • The United States and Norway have announced a Green Shipping Challenge for COP 27. This initiative encourages governments, ports, shipping companies… to propose concrete steps towards complete decarbonization by 2050.
  • Singapore will promote green shipping, encouraging research into low-carbon fuels.
  • Chile is working with specialized centers to develop a network of green shipping corridors to achieve carbon-free shipping.



(1) The eight interactive dialogues held were: 1- Combating marine pollution; 2- Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems; 3- Minimizing and addressing ocean acidification, deoxygenation and warming; 4- Making fisheries sustainable and providing access to marine resources and markets for small-scale fishermen; 5- Promoting and strengthening sustainable ocean-based economies, particularly for small island developing states and least developed countries; 7- Strengthen the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources through the implementation of international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; 8- Build on the linkages between Sustainable Development Goal 14 and the other Goals for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.


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