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UN chief launches plan to tackle ‘precarious state’ of seas

The UN chief has announced an initiative to protect oceans from pollution and over-fishing and to combat rising sea levels which threaten hundreds of millions of people.

Secretary general Ban Ki-moon said the “Oceans Compact” initiative sets out a strategic vision for the UN system to more effectively tackle the “precarious state” of the world’s seas.

He highlighted the “grave threat” from pollution, excessive fishing, and global warming.

“Our oceans are heating and expanding,” he said in a speech yesterday to a conference marking the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“We risk irrevocable changes in processes that we barely comprehend, such as the great currents that affect weather patterns. Ocean acidification [from absorbed carbon emissions] is eating into the very basis of our ocean life; and sea level rise threatens to re-draw the global map at the expense of hundreds of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

The UN chief, who also called for action to curb piracy and irregular sea migration, said he hoped for progress towards a legally binding framework to combat “runaway climate change” at a UN conference in Doha in November.

Mr Ban said the compact was aimed at “improving the health of the oceans” and strengthening their management through an action plan to be overseen by an advisory group.

This would be made up of senior policymakers, scientists and ocean experts, representatives from the private sector, and civil society and leaders of UN organisations.

Mr Ban said his initiative would also support implementation of the Law of the Sea treaty, which came into force in 1994.

The US is the only major power not to have signed the convention.

The compact calls for countries most at risk from rising sea levels to develop plans to mitigate the threat, and for vulnerable regions to have tsunami warning systems.

By 2025, all countries should set national targets to curb nutrients, marine debris and wastewater.

By 2020, it says, at least 10% of coastal and marine areas should be subject to conservation measures.


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