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Oceans blog series

Tobacco: a threat to our oceans

24 May 2017 by Roy Small, Policy Analyst, HIV, Health and Development Group, BPPS, UNDP

cigarettes and plastic duck in waterCigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. Photo: flickr.com/photos/aceofknaves/
Tobacco is a significant threat to our oceans. Each year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide, by far the most littered item, with a significant percentage finding their way into our oceans and onto our shores. The problem is only likely to get worse, particularly as smoking rates continue to escalate in many low- and middle-income countries. Less well-known are tobacco’s negative impacts on sustainable development, including on oceanic systems. Yes, you read that right – tobacco is a significant threat to our oceans. Each year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide, by far the most littered item, with a significant percentage finding their way into our oceans and onto our shores. The problem is only likely to get worse, particularly as smoking rates continue to escalate in many low- and middle-income countries. This “last socially acceptable form of littering” is far more than just an unpleasant aesthetic. Cigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. In one lab study, the leachate from just one cigarette butt, placed into no more than one litre of water, killed half of all exposed marine and freshwater fish. … Read more

Internal compass for the implementation of SDG 14: putting local people and communities at the center

19 May 2017 by Sulan Chen is Programme Advisor- International Waters and Chemicals & Waste Management - UNDP

man repairing a fishnetIn Malaysia, the Small Grants Programme supported an initiative to address accidental capture of sea turtles in commercial and artisanal fisheries. Photo: SGP Malaysia
On 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the comprehensive and ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since then, life has continued and gone on in thousands of communities around the world, for whom the SDGs are probably of little significance. Indeed, political declarations or statements, if left with no implementation on the ground, are barely anything more than good wills. If, on the other hand, SDGs are people-centered, the focus should be on local people, communities and the ecosystems they rely on for their survival and prosperity. This, in my view, is the internal compass for the implementation of the SDGs. Now that the upcoming Ocean Conference confronts the world to implement SDG 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, there is a need to strengthen its implementation at the local level. Guided by this internal compass, the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP has provided financial resources and technical guidance to communities and civil society organizations for the environment and sustainable development. … Read more

Nature to the rescue: Using ecosystem services to reduce flood risks

12 May 2017 by Saskia Marijnissen, Regional Technical Adviser, Ecosystems and Biodiversity, UNDP Africa

In Sierra Leone, over 3 million people live in increasingly vulnerable coastal areas. Finding innovative and sustainable ways to work together with, rather than against, nature for effective risk reduction is critical. © Tommy Trenchard/ UNEP
From the mouth of the Mississippi to that of the Nile, communities have been drawn to coastal flood plains throughout the centuries. Where rivers and oceans meet, nature is at its best, and river sedimentation provides rich soils that greatly benefit agricultural productivity as well as fisheries. At present, an estimated 60 percent of our global population lives along estuaries and coastlines – making them among the most heavily populated areas of the world. As appealing as coastal areas are, living on a fertile floodplain comes with substantial risks. Floods are the most frequent of all natural disasters globally, and some of the largest disasters have occurred in coastal areas. Think about the devastation done by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or the dangerous floods which happen every year in Bangladesh. … Read more

Oceans of fortune, oceans of peril

26 Apr 2017 by Clotilde Goeman, Regional Technical Advisor, Climate Change Adaptation and International Waters

Boats landed on DRC's coast are exacerbating shore erosion by displacing sand from the beach.Boats landed on DRC's coast are exacerbating shore erosion by displacing sand from the beach. Photo: UNDP
On Africa’s West Coast, the ocean is everything. For thousands of years, its bounty has provided food for families, employment for fisher folk, remarkable sunsets that attract tourists, ports that carry goods and build economic resilience, and coastal barriers that buffer the earth, cleanse the ocean and create a more sustainable ecosystem. The ocean is hearth and home. But changes in the climate are resulting in rising sea levels, degraded fish stocks, coastal degradation, and more. Making this both an ocean of fortune and an ocean of peril. The west coast of Africa represents a major source of revenues for its communities. In some countries, like Senegal, 66 percent of the population live in coastal areas. … Read more

In Belize, local stewardship key to marine conservation

21 Apr 2017 by Leonel Requena, National Coordinator, GEF Small Grants Programme, UNDP Belize

Local communities are at the forefront of marine resources management and their engagement in conservation and shared governance is crucial to ensuring sustainable use of ocean resources. Photo: Avelino Franco/Fragments of Hope
The reef was in plain sight, a majestic view with sandy white beaches surrounding cayes with magnificent frigate birds and booby birds flying overhead at Halfmoon Caye Natural Monument. I was eager to put on my diving gear and see the wonders of the 186-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Colorful coral reefs, whale sharks, turtles, and hundreds of cubera snappers aggregating three days before full moon at the Gladden Spit Spawning Aggregation Site, in Belize. It was May 2002, and I was participating along with a research team to collect data on Nassau Grouper abundance and distribution which would inform the declaration of eleven Nassau Grouper Spawning Aggregation Sites. Our ocean is rich in biodiversity and is a crucial carbon sink. Coastal wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs support a diverse array of marine life. According to a recent economic study of the Belize Barrier Reef, the estimated services derived for tourism and livelihoods is US$559 million per year with a population of 380,010 people. A healthy reef ensures healthy people and a resilient country. … Read more

Treasure or tragedy – our ocean commons

23 Mar 2017 by Midori Paxton, Head of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Expanding marine protected areas is imperative for biodiversity and ecosystem health. It is also essential for social welfare and the economy. Photo: Shutterstock/divedog
Bunaken National Marine Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011. The sea was a bit too choppy for my liking. But there was a volcano erupting inland. The sea looked like a safer option! I took the plunge and jumped off the boat with my snorkel and fins. Around me was a new world. So serene, so many layers. Wonderfully coloured fish clustered around corals, sea turtles flapped by, and there was a darkness beneath a canyon wall that told of depths beyond the reach of sunlight. Down there, I knew, were coelacanths. Once believed to have gone extinct 66 million years ago, these fish have in fact out-lived the dinosaurs. If aliens arrived from outer space, they wouldn’t call our planet Earth. They would call it planet Sea. Seventy-one percent of our planet’s surface is covered in water. The depths are profound. Just imagine having the whole Himalayan or Andean mountain range upside down beneath the ocean face. That is just a taster. The oceans sustain creatures we haven’t even discovered, but they also keep terrestrial life going. More than 3 billion people depend on them as their primary source of protein. Shipping lanes keep commerce thriving and the water regulates the temperature and atmosphere. … Read more

Ocean acidification – what it means and how to stop it

14 Mar 2017 by Andrew Hudson, Head of Water and Ocean Governance Programme, UNDP

The ‘recipe’ for reversing ocean acidification is transitioning to an energy efficient model that relies primarily on renewable sources of energy. Photo: UNDP
In the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has set forth a bold new vision for global development and committed to achieving it by the year 2030. SDG 14 calls for us to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” While most of the targets in SDG 14 cover ocean issues and challenges that are well known to most, such as pollution and overfishing, one SDG 14 target, 14.3, may not be so familiar: 14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels. What is ocean acidification, and why is it so important to ocean sustainability and therefore to the SDG agenda? Let’s start with some basic chemistry concepts. Water can be either acidic, basic, or neutral, depending on the relative levels of hydrogen ions it contains. The higher the hydrogen level, the more acidic the solution. This characteristic is quantified in its pH, which runs on a scale from 0-14. The scale is ‘logarithmic’ meaning that each increment of one is a 10-fold increase or decrease in hydrogen ion concentration. A pH below 7 is acidic, 7 is neutral, and above 7 is basic. … Read more

The way forward for reducing marine pollution

06 Mar 2017 by Andrew Hudson, Head of Water and Ocean Governance Programme, UNDP

Some 8-20 million metric tonnes of plastics reach our oceans every year, leading to ‘garbage patches’ as well as visible impacts on nearly all the world’s coasts and beaches.
The Ocean Conference taking place this June at UN headquarters is a unique opportunity to promote and accelerate action, partnerships, commitment and progress on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, Life below water. The outcome will be a concise, focused, intergovernmentally agreed declaration in the form of a "Call for Action" to support the implementation of Goal 14. The SDGs and the ocean Goal 14 is part of the 2030 Agenda, adopted by world leaders in September 2015. It calls on us to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The SDGs set the global agenda for development through 2030 towards a vision of peace, prosperity and planetary health. And they include clear targets, against which we can measure progress. The first target for SDG 14 is to “prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution”. Given the fact that 80 percent or more of the pollution reaching the ocean is land-based, SDG 14 is further complemented by two targets under SDG 6, on clean water and sanitation: … Read more

From ‘Spice Isle’ to ‘blue innovation’ hub: Grenada’s vision for the future

01 Mar 2017 by Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist: Development Finance, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

With an ocean space 75 times larger than its land area, Grenada is one of the world’s first countries to develop a vision for an economy based on ‘blue growth'. Photo: Tre Packard
The Caribbean country of Grenada, known by many as ‘Spice Isle’ for its production of nutmeg, cloves and other exotic spices is now setting its sights on being known as a world leader for innovation in the ‘blue economy’. The ‘blue economy’ can be broadly understood as economic activity that is in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean and coastal ecosystems to support this activity and remain healthy and resilient. Grenada is one of the world’s first countries to develop a vision for an economy based on ‘blue growth’. Its ocean space is 75 times larger than its land area. Beyond its 345 square kilometres of land territory, Grenada has 26,000 square kilometres of blue ocean space. Such a large space presents opportunities for the country to diversify its economy, and by applying a ‘blue economy’ approach, it ensures that ocean development expands economic output, creates jobs, reduces poverty and builds local skills while conserving the natural environment. Grenada is the first country to initiate a national ‘masterplan’ for blue growth. It identifies opportunities for blue growth development in areas such as fisheries and aquaculture, blue biotechnology, renewable energy, research and innovation. … Read more

Oceans and small island states: First think opportunity, then think blue

22 Feb 2017 by Craig Hawke, Principal Advisor, Small Island Developing States, Bureau of Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

For Small Islands Developing States like Haiti, the Ocean Conference and the blue economy can contribute to addressing some of the concerns associated with economic and environmental vulnerability. Photo: UN MINUSTAH
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are thinking differently, especially when it comes to the ocean. Their self-characterization as Large Ocean States is more than symbolic, more than just words. It represents a re-think on opportunities and challenges for small island states. At the UN Ocean Conference in June in New York, we will all need to embrace this new mind-set. SIDS have often been characterized by their constraints – smallness (in land area at least), distance from markets, fragile ecosystems, narrow economies and vulnerability to natural disasters. And now they stand on the frontlines of sea-level rise and the consequences of a warming climate. That is a deficit-based model. As large ocean states, the focus shifts to a strengths-based approach. SIDS are custodians of 15 of the 50 largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Tuvalu’s EEZ is 27,000 times larger than its land area. SIDS represent almost 20 percent of the UN membership – if we are going to leave no one behind we need to think innovatively on development solutions tailored to the smallest countries, with some of the largest ocean estates. The Ocean Conference will be the time to continue to move this opportunity-centred thinking into action. And one opportunity is – ‘think blue’ strategy. … Read more