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Pacific Ocean Commissioner calls for ocean protection at COP26

Henry Puna at the High-level launch of the ‘Third Because the Ocean Declaration’ said: “We must maintain the health, productivity and resilience of our ocean and its ecosystems”

Pacific Ocean Commissioner Henry Puna has called on everyone to work together to save the ocean, save ourselves, our children and our future. “This is our legacy.”

Puna made the remarks at the High-level launch of the ‘Third Because the Ocean Declaration’ that was held at the University of Edinburgh on Sunday, as part of the COP26 event.

“We must maintain the health, productivity and resilience of our ocean and its ecosystems. The Pacific Islands Forum leaders have committed to responsibly and effectively manage 100 percent of the Blue Pacific Ocean within and beyond national jurisdictions based on the best available scientific information and traditional knowledge. 

“This requires strong Ocean governance to be in place both within, and beyond, national jurisdictions of countries of the Blue Pacific. This will ensure the holistic and sustainable management of the Ocean,” said Puna.

In August, Forum Leaders endorsed a declaration to preserve maritime zones in the face of climate related sea level rise. 

“They recognised that because the ocean provides us with so many life and societal supporting services, it is our greatest endowment fund. This means that, as its custodians, we must care for it, respect it, and nurture it to continue benefiting from its bounties. We must do this, not only for us, but for our children and our children’s children. We must do it for humanity,” he said.

Puna said this declaration represents the region’s formal collective view on how UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) rules on maritime zones apply in the situation of climate change-related sea-level rise. 

“It is rooted in the Convention’s underpinning legal principles, in particular those of stability, security, certainty and predictability. In essence, the declaration affirms that whether or not sea levels are rising, once maritime boundaries are set and deposited with the UN Secretary General, they shall not be altered. 

“Our Declaration is a landmark instrument that will shape international thinking. It will put our region at the heart of international discussions to resolve this global issue. While the issue is of fundamental importance to our Blue Pacific continent, other Coastal States and countries in similar fashion require stability, security, certainty and predictability of their maritime zones. I call on all your countries to support the Declaration as a practical and considered solution to address a very complex and dire consequence of climate change,” Puna said at the launch. 

Puna explained an ambitious treaty on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, BBNJ, will support the national and regional efforts. 

“This is why our Leaders are strongly supporting the negotiations to successfully conclude in 2022, and for its entry into force as soon as possible.

“However, critical to ensuring success in all these policies and legal frameworks and initiatives is the need for an enabling environment. This can be attained through solid, mutually beneficial partnerships and fit for purpose targeting funding.  This includes establishing a new climate finance goal for post-2025, with a better balance between adaptation and mitigation, and dedicated finance for loss and damage,” he said.  

Puna also said climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Blue Pacific and the world.

“We have been talking about climate change for decades now. Yet, there are still those who deny or will not act. You have seen the images of desolation and destruction caused by more severe and frequent climate induced disasters. 

“You have heard our Blue Pacific calling for greater ambition and more action now, to the big economies and emitters. They must act now! We need to commit and stick to implementing all needed actions to keeping to the 1.5degrees target. In short – 1.5 to stay alive, not just the Pacific, but all humankind,” said SG Puna. 

He said the recent IPCC report has clearly stated that it is Code Red for humanity.

“Our climate will keep changing. Our seas will continue to warm and to rise. Our coral reefs will continue to bleach and die. Our people will continue to suffer distress from more intense weather related events, loss of livelihoods and food security and a general reduction in wellbeing.

“We must all change how we live, our consumption patterns, our actions. We must change our thinking. We cannot continue with business as usual. Covid-19 has showed that we can change our habits, that we can act as one for the betterment of humankind. We must bring this unified global approach to bear on climate change and its impacts,” Puna said.

Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Ambassador Dr Satendra Prasad also delivered the country statement supporting the ‘Third Because the Ocean declaration’ with Prince Albert of Monaco.

The first and second Because the Ocean declaration has contributed to the broader reflection of Ocean issues into UNFCCC frameworks and policy development including the incorporation of the ocean into the climate change policy debate, the inclusion of ocean action into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement and more widely into climate strategies.

This story was produced by Pita Ligaiula, published at PACNEWS on 2 November 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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