First UN talks to save oceans kick off today

MIAMI • World leaders will convene at the United Nations headquarters this week for the first major bid to solve the toughest problems facing our oceans, ranging from coral bleaching and plastic pollution to overfishing and rising seas.

The five-day Ocean Conference in New York begins today. It attempts to rally nations to make meaningful changes to preserve what is arguably the Earth's most important resource.

United States President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord is expected to be a hot topic. No high-ranking US official is expected to attend.

Despite Mr Trump's decision, which drew worldwide condemnation, experts at the Pew Charitable Trust said the US has been a part of crafting a broad "call to action", and is expected to sign it.

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"We are committed to halting and reversing the decline in the health and productivity of our ocean," read the three-page document. It also expresses alarm at the impact of climate change on the ocean.

Previous global meetings on problems facing the oceans have taken place, but World Wildlife Fund global marine programme director John Tanzer described this one as "historic" because the talks are under the auspices of the UN for the first time.

Specifically, nations will talk about how to meet the 2015 UN-adopted Sustainable Development Goal 14, to "conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources".

Targets include protecting at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine environments by 2020, reducing ocean pollution and strengthening ways to fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'First UN talks to save oceans kick off today'. Print Edition | Subscribe