Speaking at the high-level opening of the Conference, Mr. Guterres outlined four recommendations to ensure that the tide is reversed.

Among them, the UN chief underscored the urgent need to invest sustainably in economies that depend on the sea.

I apologize to youth on behalf of my generation for not having protected the ocean.

This week’s UN Ocean Conference will be key to find ways to #SaveOurOcean for the benefit of people and planet.

I count on young people’s strength, dynamism and action to rescue our planet. pic.twitter.com/T0vGpqa5XX

— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) June 26, 2022

Co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya, the event will be a platform to address the challenges that the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources face.

Quoting Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, Mr. Guterres, said that his hopes were that the Conference represented a moment of unity for all Member-States.

Ocean emergency

Highlighting that the ocean connects us all – Secretary-General Guterres said that because we have taken the ocean for granted, today, we face an “Ocean Emergency” and that the tide must be turned.

“Our failure to care for the ocean will have ripple effects across the entire 2030 Agenda,” Mr. Guterres said.

Healthy seas vital to shared future

At the last UN Ocean Conference five years ago in New York, delegates called to reverse the decline in ocean health.

Since then, some progress has been made, the UN chief maintained, with new treaties being negotiated to address the global plastic waste crisis that is choking the oceans, and advances in science, in line with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

“But let’s have no illusions. Much more needs to be done by all of us together”, Mr. Guterres stressed, before outlining four key recommendations:

  1. Invest in sustainable ocean economies

Mr. Guterres urged stakeholders to invest in sustainable ocean economies for food, renewable energy, and livelihoods, through long-term funding, reminding them that out of all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal number 14 had received the least support of any of the SDGs.

“Sustainable ocean management could help the ocean produce as much as six times more food and generate 40 times more renewable energy than it currently does,” the UN Secretary-General said.

  1. Replicate ocean success

Second, he continued, “the ocean must become a model on how we can manage the global commons for our greater good; and this means preventing and reducing marine pollution of all kinds, both from land and sea-based sources”.

This would entail scaling-up effective area-based conservation measures and integrated coastal zone management.

  1. Protect the people

The UN chief also called for more protection of the oceans and of the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on them, by addressing climate change and investing in climate-resilient coastal infrastructure.

“The shipping sector should commit to net zero emissions by 2050, and present credible plans to implement these commitments. And we should invest more in restoring and conserving coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves, wetlands, and coral reefs.”, Mr. Guterres stressed.

Inviting all Member States to joint the initiative recently launched to achieve the goal of full early warning system coverage in the next five years, Mr. Guterres said that this would help to reach coastal communities and those whose livelihoods depend on early warning protection measures at sea.

  1. More science and innovation

Lastly, Mr. Guterres underlined the need for more science and innovation to propel us into what he called a “new chapter of global ocean action”.

“I invite all to join the goal of mapping 80 per cent of the seabed by 2030. I encourage the private sector to join partnerships that support ocean research and sustainable management. And I urge governments to raise their level of ambition for the recovery of ocean health”.

Concluding with a Swahili proverb: “Bahari itatufikisha popote”, which means “the ocean leads us anywhere”, Mr. Guterres called on all people to pledge on ocean action.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the UN Ocean Conference’s Youth and Innovation Forum in Lisbon, Portugal.

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the UN Ocean Conference’s Youth and Innovation Forum in Lisbon, Portugal.

Turn to the Ocean

Addressing the audience in Lisbon, President of the UN General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, said that the ocean connects us all, and that the Conference would be the place to demonstrate the global commitments.

As a Maldivian, the President said, “I am a child of the Ocean (…) but beyond those of us who look to the blue horizon each day, the entirety of humanity relies upon the ocean for half of the oxygen we take. That’s why we are here this week, to stand for a resource that has carried us through our entire existence”.

The declaration entitled “Our ocean, our future: call for action” is expected to be adopted on Friday.

The UN Ocean Conference in Altice Arena, Lisbon, Portugal

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The UN Ocean Conference in Altice Arena, Lisbon, Portugal

Kenya and Portugal co-host

Presiding over the Conference, which runs until 1 July, are Kenyan President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

“We expect to leave Lisbon with a clear understanding of financing options and pathways. The Ocean is the most underappreciated resource in our planet,” said President Kenyatta, stressing that youth need to be in the front row seat of the discussion, and that they were a part of the solution.

Addressing the plenary, President Rebelo de Sousa said that Lisbon was the right place for the Ocean Conference because the ocean had been essential in transforming Portugal to what it was today.

Politicians go, oceans stay. Oceans are central in geopolitical balance, health care, economic resources, energy, mobility, migration, scientific and technological development, and climate change”, he added.

During the week, UN News will bring you daily coverage on the Conference as well as interviews, podcasts and features, which you can access here.