On Ocean Day at COP26, Blue Leaders Call for Major Ocean Protections

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – During ocean day at COP26, a broad coalition of government leaders and ocean advocates known as Blue Leaders today called for immediate action by heads of state to protect the world’s vast ocean and its precious biodiversity from the many harmful impacts wrought by climate change and human activities.

“The ocean, a remarkable life-sustaining force on Earth, today faces threats from all sides, especially from harmful climate impacts and unsustainable human activities,” said Manish Bapna, president and CEO of NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), a co-sponsor of a Blue Leaders event at COP26. “Billions of people worldwide depend on the ocean for food, jobs, and cultural and economic survival, including some of Earth’s most vulnerable communities,” Bapna added. “Clearly one of the most important things we can do for the world’s ocean is to address greenhouse gas emissions driving the climate crisis, which we all came to Glasgow to do.”

He and other leaders at the event urged governments to ensure a healthy and thriving future for the ocean by: 

  • Establishing a new global target to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030 through a network of highly and fully protected marine areas at the meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Rapidly concluding a robust new United Nations treaty to conserve and protect marine biodiversity in the ocean beyond national jurisdiction. The new treaty should implement highly and fully protected marine areas on the high seas and modernize and strengthen assessment and management of human activities outside these protected areas to prevent significant adverse impacts.

These two actions are essential to maintaining the health and resilience of the ocean in the face of climate change, and to safeguard the food and economic security of billions of people worldwide who depend on the ocean for food, jobs, and economic and cultural survival.

“The ocean is the blue lifeblood of the Planet,” said Dr Sylvia Earle, noted oceanographer who leads Mission Blue. “To safeguard our planet, we must safeguard the ocean. Today’s commitment by the Blue Leaders to highly and fully protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030 is absolutely essential and is an important step forward to ensuring there are places in the sea where life can rebuild and thrive, putting the Earth on a path to recovery.”

“I want to thank the Blue Leaders for giving us the self-belief that we can actually save our oceans. Thirty percent of our ocean highly and fully protected by 2030 is now crystallizing into the policy of good government,” said Andrew Forrest, Co-Founder, Minderoo Foundation.

The Blue Leaders initiative is a collaboration between the government of Belgium, NRDC, and Mission Blue. Blue Leader countries include Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Fiji, Finland, Gabon, Monaco, Nigeria, Palau, Panama, Seychelles, and Spain.

The global ocean covers nearly two-thirds of the planet and is home to a majority of Earth’s biodiversity. It regulates the Earth’s climate, produces the oxygen needed to sustain life and provides billions of people with food and livelihoods.

But the rising and damaging impacts of unsustainable human activity along with dramatic changes to ocean chemistry and temperature as a result of climate change, are having a profound impact on the ocean’s ability to continue providing life-sustaining services.

The Blue Leaders coalition contends that the ocean has reached a crucial tipping point and governments around the world must act soon, decisively and collectively to protect our Blue Planet.

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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