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Ocean Currents

Only Together Can We RISE UP for Our Ocean

Ocean Conservancy is proud to take part in a new, global campaign to save our ocean

Wave in Maori Bay, New Zealand
© Tim Marshall

Even if you can only stomach the news in small amounts these days, you’ve probably seen some depressing stories about the health of the planet or snippets of politicians debating what to do about it. The climate crisis is ramping up, the lesser-known biodiversity and extinction crisis continues, the trends for ocean plastic are overwhelming, oil spills from small to catastrophic occur with regularity, cities around the world still struggle to provide and maintain clean air and water in face of competing industrial and development demands—the list goes on. That translates to a theoretical laundry list of actions needed to save the planet, each more critical than the last.

So, I knew it was special to be heading up the elevator of United Nations Headquarters in February 2020 arm-in-arm with our colleagues from the environmental community, as well as fisherfolk, Indigenous peoples and philanthropic organizations, to ask the Secretary-General to support the most important thing we can do right now for the planet—to RISE UP for the ocean.

RISE UP, a coalition of scientists and civil society, pushing for bolder action to protect and restore our oceans
© Anna-Marie Laura

RISE UP is a coalition of more than 400 organizations from around the world and with diverse perspectives calling on governments and businesses to save our ocean and take bold, decisive action to:

  • Restore Ocean Life
  • Invest immediately in a net-zero carbon emissions future
  • Speed the transition to a circular and sustainable economy
  • Empower and support coastal people
  • Unite for stronger global ocean governance
  • Protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030

Ocean Conservancy is proud to be an early endorser of RISE UP and, through specific programs and initiatives, we are working in some way on all of these goals. For example, our work promoting ocean solutions to climate change includes efforts at the International Maritime Organization that align with the RISE UP priority action to “target 100 percent decarbonization of all shipping by 2035, and immediately ban heavy fuel oil use in the Arctic.” Similarly, our Trash Free Seas® program is working through initiatives with governments and businesses to “eliminate all non-essential single-use plastics and reduce plastic production by implementing zero-waste strategies by 2025.” And across Ocean Conservancy, through initiatives like ocean planning and marine conservation in the Arctic, we “recognize the critical importance of ancestral Indigenous and local knowledge, and seek to ensure it is incorporated in decision-making.”

As you can see from these examples, to truly RISE UP for the ocean and the communities that depend on its resources, we need ambitious action in many places—geographically and politically. Countless international governmental bodies meet and decide what rules everyone in a certain place or a specific sector should follow. And a lot of these are voluntary, making it hard to hold anyone’s feet to the fire.

A blue wave in the ocean with the words
© RISE UP

Some decisions to protect the ocean can be made in the UN system, like the Paris Agreement to address climate change or the Convention of Biological Diversity to address biodiversity loss and species extinction. Some decisions are made in other bodies, like the World Trade Organization that pledged to end harmful fishing subsidies that incentivize overfishing and fail to protect communities that depend on these resources by 2020. Or the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which met last week and decided against expanding protected areas in the Southern Ocean that benefit protected marine mammals, the biodiversity of a unique polar ecosystem, and also marine resources for future generations. While there are a number of forums attempting to address plastic pollution, like the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, the Basel Convention and the UN Environment Assembly, to name a few, there is currently no international framework to address plastic waste on a global scale, and such an action could take up to a decade to negotiate.

In all of these instances, countries get to decide if they want to participate in the first place and even when the majority of countries agree on a particular path forward, it only takes one or a small handful of them to thwart progress. RISE UP is asking governments to raise their ambition, to work together across these many forums and take bold action today in order to protect the ocean and our planet.

It also calls on businesses to take action because they are a critical part of us collectively realizing the technological, political and workable solutions we need. Just like governments, they work together through a number of voluntary agreements that can act to protect the ocean and any single business’s interest can either catalyze or hinder action.

We need as many organizations as possible to join us and RISE UP to ask governments and businesses to take action for our ocean. Like a wave coming to shore, the success of this movement depends on collective forward momentum and a demonstration that this is not a call only from environmental organizations, but from organizations around the world, representing diverse cultures, perspectives and ways of life. Only together can we RISE UP for the ocean before it’s too late.

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