In 2008, the United Nations declared World Oceans Day for the 8 June every year as a “reminder of the major role oceans play in everyday life”:

They are the lungs of our Planet and a major source of food and medicine and a critical part of the biosphere.

The purpose of the Day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans.

According to the UN “the ocean produces at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen, it is home to most of earth’s biodiversity, and is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world”. It also estimates that by 2030 there will be 40 million people employed in ocean-based industries.

World Oceans Day 2021

Events for World Oceans Day will be held virtually in 2021, with the theme The Ocean: Lives and Livelihoods:

“The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods” is the theme for World Oceans Day 2021, as well as a declaration of intentions that launches a decade of challenges to get the Sustainable Development Goal 14, “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”, by 2030.

Sustainable Development Goal 14 calls for improved protection of the oceans from the threats of overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification caused by climate change, while protecting livelihoods:

The ocean drives global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea.

Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future. However, at the current time, there is a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution, and ocean acidification is having an adversarial effect on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity. This is also negatively impacting small scale fisheries.

Saving our ocean must remain a priority. Marine biodiversity is critical to the health of people and our planet. Marine protected areas need to be effectively managed and well-resourced and regulations need to be put in place to reduce overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification.

A United Nations Ocean Conference was due to be held in 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal. The Ocean Conference has been postponed twice due to Covid 19 and is now due to be held in 2022. This is part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science which runs from 2021-2030.

UK Government priorities for ocean conservation

The Government set out its priorities for ocean conservation in response to a Parliamentary Question on 26 January 2021:

The Government recognises that a healthy ocean is vital to life and livelihoods on Earth. Ocean conservation and protection of marine biodiversity is particularly important for building resilience and adapting to the impacts of climate change, as well as supporting mitigation.

That is why we are leading efforts to secure international agreement to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030 (30by30) as part of the new Global Biodiversity Framework. The framework is due to be agreed at the next meeting of the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021.

To support this ambition the UK has set up and leads the Global Ocean Alliance and has joined the High Ambition Coalition as Ocean Co-Chair. The UK is also pushing for other ambitious and transformative targets as part of the new post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Marine biodiversity priorities include targets on ecosystem restoration, pollution reduction, sustainable use of biodiversity, reform and elimination of harmful subsidies and nature-based solutions.

We are also playing a leading role in negotiations for a new agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (the BBNJ Agreement). This would enable, in particular, the designation of Marine Protected Areas in the high seas – essential to implementing the 30 by 30 target. The final round of negotiations is planned for August and the UK wants to see an ambitious agreement concluded this year.

We have committed to establishing a new £500 million Blue Planet Fund using ODA to support developing countries protect the marine environment and reduce poverty. This will contribute to the UK’s commitment to spend at least £3 billion of international climate finance to protect and restore nature and biodiversity over the next 5 years.

Through the £25 million Blue Belt programme, we have protected over 4 million square kilometres of ocean around our Overseas Territories, ranging from the Southern Ocean to the tropics.Tackling climate change itself is vital for ocean health.

As COP26 Presidency we are pushing for ambitious and accelerated action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Further resources

The following are a list of resources providing further background for the debate:

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