The year 2015 was marked indelibly by the Paris Climate Conference (COP21). In 2016, several projects await us to transform the success of the COP 21 into a reality.
Following the approval of the Paris Agreement and the definition of Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations, 2016 marks the beginning of a countdown for several important steps towards the management of the Ocean. The current period (years 2015 – 2020) has been described as a “moment of truth for the Ocean” by former British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband on the occasion of the High Seas Conference held at the UN in early 2015.
For the Tara Expeditions team, mobilization continues in preparation for our next scientific expedition. Governance of High Seas, sustainable development goals, the ban on plastic bags — huge efforts will be necessary to consolidate the advances. Here is a brief overview of political challenges facing the Ocean in 2016.
GOVERNANCE OF THE HIGH SEAS (HIGH SEAS ALLIANCE)
Negotiations for an international agreement on the High Seas started on March 28, 2016, following 6 years of hesitation and disagreements between countries. In January 2015, the unanimous decision was made to obtain an agreement on an international treaty for the management of biodiversity in the regions currently beyond national jurisdiction. The negotiations this spring will address sensitive issues such as the management of high seas fisheries, and the implementation of a mechanism for sharing the benefits of data and biological resources.
For Tara Expeditions and partners of the High Seas Alliance, the work of influencing policy is only beginning. We need to reach an agreement that governs human activities in the High Seas, including fishing, without creating hindrances to basic research by international bureaucracies.
PLASTIC AT SEA
After successful initiatives and campaigns to ban (or reduce) single-use plastic bags, we must ensure that decisions are applied in France and the rest of Europe. In France, the application of the law passed in 2015 has already been postponed for several months. Other European countries are being called upon to ban plastic bags by 2018, but before that (in 2017) they must agree on the technical definition of “biodegradable or compostable” bags.
On a political level, the problem of plastic waste at sea is far from being the priority for the recently appointed European Commission, currently confronting the terrible migrant crisis. For Tara Expeditions and partners, mobilization appears more than ever necessary to ensure that nations advance on realistic, sufficiently funded action plans. All European countries are required to submit their reduction targets in 2018, to be applied starting in 2020.
Following the conference “Plastics in the Mediterranean: What Solutions?” held in Monaco in March 2015, the BeyondPlastic Med Platform will launch a call for projects aimed at supporting initiatives around the Mediterranean to reduce plastic pollution at sea.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
17 sustainable development goals were defined by the United Nations in 2015. Among the objectives, the 14th concerns sustainable development of the Ocean. But how can we evaluate goals that are so general? Participating countries and UN observer organizations will have to develop indicators to determine how to evaluate and achieve these objectives. To protect the ocean, we must implement specific actions to help reach these very general goals. An example: “Minimize ocean acidification and fight against its effects, especially by strengthening scientific cooperation at all levels”.
FOLLOW-UP TO THE COP21
As for climate negotiations, Tara Expeditions Foundation will continue to be an advocate for the Ocean at UN commissions (eg, Climate Commission for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement) and will continue to monitor the concretization (or not) of projects concerning the Ocean announced as part of the Agenda of Solutions at the COP21.
In collaboration with the Ocean and Climate Platform, we will continue our mobilization around ocean-related climate issues. And with the initiative “Because the Ocean”, already signed by 22 countries, Tara Expeditions Foundation will monitor nations’ commitments, as well as the demand for a special report from the IPCC concerning the Ocean. Their decision is expected this April.
For more information:
• Governance of High Seas:
• Plastic at sea:
• Sustainable Development Goals:
• Ocean and Climate