Commonwealth leaders today agreed on a bold, co-ordinated push to protect the ocean from the effects of climate change, pollution and over-fishing.
Their landmark decision to adopt a Commonwealth Blue Charter will affect one third of the world’s national coastal waters, helping to sustain livelihoods and ecosystems globally.
It follows overwhelming support by member countries at the UN Oceans Conference in New York last year at which Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland proposed a collaborative approach to action on ocean governance and conservation.
Speaking at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London, the Secretary-General said: “Member countries have told us they need to work together to sustain the health of our ocean. Blue ecosystems are being degraded at an unprecedented rate and this is not an issue any country can solve alone.
“The Commonwealth Blue Charter will undoubtedly change the pace of global efforts on ocean conservation, unlocking the power of 53 nations on what is clearly one of the most pressing causes of our time.”
This week, Commonwealth countries attending their summit in London stepped forward to lead on priority areas of action:
- Australia, Belize and Mauritius will spearhead the protection and restoration of coral reefs;
- Fiji will champion climate change action for the oceans, including ‘blue’ carbon sequestration by coastal vegetation and the development of resilient, low-carbon coastal cities;
- UK and Vanuatu will lead on tackling ocean plastics, supported by the UK’s £60m commitment to a Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance;
- Sri Lanka will initiate collaboration on mangrove restoration;
- Cyprus will offer its experience and expertise on the sustainable development of aquaculture;
- Kenya will pioneer the development of ‘blue’ economic growth; and
- New Zealand will champion action on ocean acidification caused by man-made C02 emissions.
Further action groups are likely to focus on topics such as maritime security, offshore emergency response and aquaculture.
The goals of the action groups are to cross-promote shared technical, scientific and policy solutions to effect broader implementation and change.
The Commonwealth Blue Charter mandates the Commonwealth Secretariat to facilitate the programme of work.
Nick Hardman-Mountford, Head of Oceans and Natural Resources said the Commonwealth Blue Charter represents “a significant shift in approach to ocean management connecting high-level commitments with pragmatic action”.
Jeff Ardron, Lead Adviser on the Commonwealth Blue Charter said: “This announcement is just the beginning. The real action starts now.”
The Commonwealth Blue Charter is underpinned by the Charter of the Commonwealth ensuring that a fair, equitable, inclusive, and sustainable approach is taken to ocean development and protection.