Yvan at the One Ocean Summit: ‘It is time to repair the oceans’
14 February 2022
"This is the first time, to my knowledge, that an international summit dedicated solely to the ocean issue has been so ambitious, in terms of representativeness and comprehensiveness of the issues addressed"
“Nearly 700 people from 40 countries gathered in Brest from February 9 to 11 to ‘collectively raise the level of commitment of the international community on maritime issues and transform our shared responsibility for the Ocean into concrete actions’. Scientists, lawyers, economic and regional players, business leaders, heads of state and government, government agencies, non-governmental and international organizations, and maritime professionals: everyone responded to the call from France, which, as part of its presidency of the Council of the European Union, wishes to leave a visible mark on the global agenda of environmental protection.
At the end of these 3 days of workshops, debates, forums, speeches, declarations, various appeals (including the Sailors’ Appeal for the Oceans, in which I participated), what did I retain from this first One Ocean Summit?
- An increased mobilization, announcements in all directions, but few real changes in the face of the urgent threats to the planet’s largest ecosystem: the summit was a great showcase to highlight inspiring initiatives that bring hope, but I can’t contain my disappointment that many issues are not progressing more quickly. Most of the commitments are at best for 2030, or even 2040, but we are still waiting for immediate voluntary actions for 2025. This summit had some virtues but not necessarily a measurable impact, which contrasts with the opening statement, which was “it is absolutely urgent to take action, the state of the seas is alarming!”
- There is a lot of talk about prevention, and that is essential, but little talk about restoration or repair of the oceans: obviously, containing the damage, taking measures to ensure that the state of the oceans does not worsen, slowing down the degradation, all of this is essential. But what about repairing existing damage? If only on the subject of plastic pollution: in 50 years, mankind has spread between 86 and 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans, with a harmful impact on biodiversity, our health, the economy, the capacity of the oceans to produce oxygen, trap carbon, regulate the climate, etc., the seriousness of which we only partially measure and which will extend over hundreds of years! What are we doing to clean up this ‘plastic legacy’? When will we see financial commitments and concrete material means to help non-governmental actors, who develop solutions, to act in this field?
- Nevertheless, I would like to salute the goodwill expressed and the few concrete advances made at the summit, such as the expansion of marine protected areas in France, which will give shelter to 50 million seabirds, or the fact that the coalition that carries the ambition of achieving 30% of marine protected areas on a global scale has been significantly expanded to 83 countries. This is a tool that should carry weight in the run-up to the COP15 on biodiversity to be held this summer in China. Also noteworthy are the efforts of the shipping industry: the heads of the four major shipping companies have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, or even becoming carbon neutral within a few years.
- The main hope comes from the real diplomatic decisions that were made at the summit: for example, the establishment of a coalition to fight plastic pollution. The international treaty on plastics, which is becoming increasingly important on the UN agenda, is thus receiving increased support from States, despite some persistent divergences. The mobilization of 800 signatory organizations, including The SeaCleaners, is to be commended for accelerating the birth of this binding treaty on the entire plastics value chain, from waste reduction to recycling, including a ban on single-use items.
Common positions have been strengthened in view of the final stretch of other major negotiations that have been underway for years and should be concluded in 2022: on the High Seas, on the protection of biodiversity and mangroves, on the fight against illegal fishing, on the decarbonization of maritime transport, on climate change, on granting the Ocean the status of Common Good of Mankind …. They should create a strong political impetus to achieve binding international treaties.
No historic ‘blue revolution’ at this One Ocean Summit, but small steps in the right direction that we recognize and welcome. Thanks to the support of our partners, the entire SeaCleaners team remains mobilized and “in the fight” for the upcoming meetings. We believe that it is through concrete actions, with visible impact, that we will raise awareness, mobilize energies and contribute to change. Thank you for your support!”
– Yvan Bourgnon, President & Founder of The SeaCleaners
Other notable advances against plastic pollution at the One Ocean Summit
- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) joined the European Investment Bank and the French (AFD), German (KfW), Italian (CDP) and Spanish (ICO) development banks in the largest initiative dedicated to reducing plastic pollution at sea through the Clean Oceans Initiative. Together, they have doubled their intervention in this sector by committing to provide a total of €4 billion in funding by 2025.
- The best way to ensure that waste does not reach the ocean is to stop producing it. To accelerate the transition to a circular economy that aims for 100% reuse or recycling of plastics and the abandonment of all single use, the Global Commitment to a New Plastics Economy, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Environment Program, brings together governments, communities, businesses and NGOs. Greece, Italy, Colombia, South Korea, the City of Paris and the Maritime Region of Central Greece have joined the “Global Commitment to a New Plastics Economy” and 500 signatories from around the world, including 250 companies.
- India and France have launched a multi-stakeholder initiative on eliminating single-use plastic pollution.
France, for its part, has announced commitments to further combat ocean pollution:
- It is committed to treating within 10 years the abandoned dumpsites on its coasts that present risks of dumping waste, particularly plastic, into the sea. Three of them, presenting a particularly urgent situation, will be treated from this year 2022: those of Dollemard in Seine-Maritime, Fouras in Charente-Maritime and Anse Charpentier in Martinique.
- The anti-waste law for a circular economy puts France on the path to phasing out single-use plastic packaging by 2040.