Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement at the Global Launch of 'Urban Bay' documentary film

Jun 7, 2017

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen:

We know that the sustainable development agenda and its action plan embodied through Agenda 2030 requires a deep transformation of some of the basic fundaments of our current development model.

Global analysis shows that to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we will either need to reform our policies and practices, revolutionize them and in some cases, produce outright reversals in their trajectories. 

Protecting marine environments in one of five key targets in the global agenda that fall into the urgent reversal category together with combating climate change, reducing waste, reducing inequality and limiting slum populations. These turnaround targets are central to the overall development agenda and remind us that SDG commitments demand broader more ambitious approaches.

SDG 14 on Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources is considered one of the most challenging to implement, partly because the drivers behind their deterioration are linked to a wide range of social, economic and environmental policies.  

The vital role of healthy oceans in sustainable economic development, poverty reduction and reduction of inequalities cannot be understated.  From fisheries to shipping to tourism, oceans represent some $3-6 trillion per year of economic output.  Several hundred million people, from small scale fishers to seafarers, depend on the ocean for their livelihoods.

Climate change and ocean acidification threaten the homes and livelihoods of entire coastal communities. Under a business as usual scenario of continued carbon emissions, oceans will continue to acidify and annual costs linked to this acidification could rise to $1.2 trillion per year.

The burden of nutrients reaching the global ocean has roughly tripled since pre-industrial times, leading to an increase in the occurrence of ‘dead zones’, now over 500 and costing us over $200 billion per year.

The world produces over 300 million metric tons of plastics every year – and between 8-20 million mt of it is entering our oceans, damaging marine species and ecosystems at all levels.

Overfishing has for long been a major issue. At present, about 30% of global fish stocks are overexploited and 60% fully exploited, leading to annual global economic losses of $83 billion.

These figures are hard evidence that sustainable management is highly compatible with economic development.

Oceans cover more than 70% of the planet and over half of the world’s population live within 60 km of the coast. As such an understanding of the role of urban sustainability in promoting healthy oceans and seas  is key to the successful implementation of SDG 14 (Life Below Water).

Addressing sustainable development through good urban policies has been identified as a strategic dimension of achieving the new global frameworks including the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework, and the New Urban Agenda. Implementing SDG 14 in cities can help us adopt system based solutions that recognize and address the integrated nature of sustainable development and achieve other SDGs, including SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).

Combatting pollution and the dumping of hazardous chemicals and untreated wastewater will improve water quality (SDG 6); Protecting marine ecosystems can help safeguard world natural heritage while also reducing the environmental impact of cities (particularly in regard to waste management) (SDG 11);  Reducing marine pollution from plastics is tied closely to promoting more sustainable consumption behaviors and lifestyles (SDG 12); And addressing acidification, one of the most dangerous threats to marine ecosystems, can only be achieved by acting on climate (SDG 13). As oceans are a source of carbon sequestration, maintaining a healthy ocean will also help advance SDG 13.

Area-based management tools such as Integrated Coastal Management, Marine Spatial Planning, Locally Managed Marine Areas, and the Large Marine Ecosystem approach, all provide valuable tools to advance ecosystem-based management of marine systems.

But as with all Sustainable development ambitions we still need strong political will and vision, integrated policies and practices backed by appropriate budgets, strong and participatory governance mechanisms, rigorous monitoring and effective accountability channels to correct faulty systems.

Oceans need to be put firmly on the public and private agenda and to do this we need both bottom up and top down approaches to work in tandem. 

We need creative approaches to put oceans in the spotlight and we need citizen champions like film producer and marine biologist Ricardo Gomes to show the world that it’s not too late to reverse the trend of ocean deterioration.

i UNDP Catalysing Ocean Finance 2012

UNDP Around the world