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Comments of the UN Secretary-General to the 44th G7 Summit

Comments of the UN Secretary-General to the 44th G7 Summit

La Malbaie, Canada, 9 June 2018

Excellencies,

I welcome your decision to bring a focus on oceans.

The facts are clear. Our oceans are a mess.

Some 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans each year. Unless we change course, it could outweigh all the fish in the oceans by 2050.

Plastic waste is now found in the most remote areas of the planet. It kills marine life and is doing major harm to communities that depend on fishing and tourism.

One mass of plastic in the Pacific is now bigger than France.

So, I welcome today’s G7 Plastics Charter. But we all need to do so much more – not just on plastic waste but on all ocean issues.

Because, make no mistake, we are in a battle. And we are losing on every front.

Overfishing is crippling fish stocks.

Pollution from land is creating vast coastal dead zones.

Nearly 80 per cent of wastewater is discharged into the sea without treatment.

And, to compound these issues, we have the growing impacts of climate change.

Ocean acidification is disrupting the marine food chain.

And ocean temperatures are at record levels, killing coral reefs and creating fiercer and more frequent storms.

Forty per cent of all people live within 100 kilometres of a coast.

Many of these people are vulnerable not just to storms but to sea level rise and coastal erosion.

Low-lying island nations face inundation, as do many major coastal cities.

So – coastal communities are in jeopardy, the oceans are being swamped by a tide of pollution, marine life is in decline, and climate change is having an increasingly powerful impact.

Thankfully, we have a battle plan.

Our guide is the Sustainable Development Goals, and especially Goal 14 with its 10 targets from addressing marine pollution and acidification, to ending overfishing and protecting ecosystems.

Our legal framework is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea -- the world’s “constitution for the oceans”.

And, at last year’s Ocean Conference, we registered more than 1,300 commitments and partnerships.

But none of these initiatives and declarations are worth anything unless we accept that we face a global emergency.

And that is why I am here today. To sound the alarm. To inject a sense of real urgency in your deliberations and decision-making.

Your leadership is needed now, more than ever – on combatting land-based pollution; on creating marine protected areas; on sustainably reviving fisheries; on building the resilience of coastal ecosystems and communities, and, especially, on climate change.

And on the issue of leadership, let’s not forget that women empowerment and leadership will make an essential contribution to safeguard the environment and to deliver solutions.

If we don’t protect our seas and oceans, and if we don’t win the battle against climate change, all the assumptions on which we base our policy-making will be worthless.

I therefore appeal to you all to take seriously these threats to our global environment and understand that our collective future and security is at stake.

Thank you.

***

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