The wind has finally turned in favor of the ocean, with several significant victories marking the year 2016. This resumé of key actions shows how the ocean has gradually taken its place among environmental concerns.
April 2016: IPCC decides to produce a special report on the Ocean
Last April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) voted to make a special report on the interactions between climate, ocean and cryosphere. This report, initially requested by Monaco and the Ocean and Climate Platform at the COP21, should improve a still incomplete knowledge of the ocean’s future in the face of climate issues.
July 1, 2016: single-use plastic bags banned in France
A symbol of our consumer society, the single-use plastic bag was banned in July. This measure must now be extended to other bags and types of packaging. But the victory is already impressive! In recent years, more than 5 billion plastic bags have been distributed to consumers, and a large number ended up in the ocean. A recent study (Jambeck et al., 2015) analyzed sources of garbage at sea and estimated that from 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic were dumped in the ocean in 2010. We have a long way to go before the packaging industry produces recyclable and biodegradable products.
End of August 2016: area of the Hawaiian Nature Reserve increased by 4
An agreement came into effect just one month after President Barack Obama’s proclamation of the extension of the Papahānaumokuākea Nature Reserve to the northwest of Hawaii. Multiplied by 4, it is now the largest in the world, increasing from 363,000 to 1.51 million km², nearly 3 times the size of metropolitan France.
October 28, 2016: the Ross Sea in Antarctica became a marine protected area
After years of negotiations concerning the protection of the Ross Sea, on October 28th an historic agreement was reached to protect the riches of this still well-preserved and particularly fragile region of Antarctica.
Other countries have also designated major reserves: the Pitcairn Islands (Great Britain), and the exceptional Clipperton atoll in the Pacific Ocean, which was declared by France a “Marine Protected Area” on November 25th.
November 2016: the Paris Agreement became effective in Marrakech
Following the COP21, the Paris Agreement became effective less than one year after its signature – a record! Especially considering that the Nagoya Protocol had required 8 years of discussion. This is a very significant advance in the face of political leaders’ climate-skepticism in recent years. We must now go beyond this stage of commitment, and implement urgent actions to limit global warming to 2°.
This success goes hand in hand with the mobilization for the Ocean and the Climate, reinforced at the COP22 in Marrakech. With the initiative “Because the Ocean” and the launching of an Alliance of Ocean and Climate Initiatives, concrete actions and technical measures will be taken to include the ocean in the contributions of various nations.
Key dates and challenges for 2017
2017 will be an important year for the Mediterranean
Starting with a high-level event in France in February 2017: the first meeting of the Mediterranean Partnership launched at the COP22. Then 2 important meetings will take place in Malta: the BLUEMED conference in April and the “Our Ocean” summit in October.
2017 will be marked by the first United Nations Conference on the Ocean
Initially scheduled for Fiji, the conference will take place in New York, June 5 – 9, to advance concretely in the implementation of the Objectives of Sustainable Development for the Ocean. An important event for the Tara Expeditions Foundation.
Finally, the last 2 preparatory meetings on the governance of the High Seas which will define the framework, elements and text of the future international agreement on the management of biodiversity in the High Seas.
Tara sailing near Samoa in December 2016 during the Tara Pacific Expedition 2016-2018 © Pierre de Parscau / Tara Expeditions Foundation