INTERNATIONAL Maritime Organization representatives at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal (27 June to 1 July 2022) highlighted the organisation’s ongoing commitment to preserving the world’s ocean and combating climate change.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim emphasised shipping’s truly international nature.
“The ocean truly sustains us all, and the maritime sector connects us all. A greener, resilient maritime sector is essential for the needs of future generations – the maritime sector underpins all sustainable development”, he said.
Speaking at the interactive dialogue on addressing marine pollution, Mr Lim said: “The regulatory framework must be fair, and must ensure no one is left behind as the industry moves towards even greener operations. Marine pollution is a transboundary problem. The threats from certain types of pollution, such as marine plastic pollution, are seen at global scales and the impacts from this pollution, coupled with climate change, create an increasing threat for marine biodiversity, ecosystems, and consequently human wellbeing.”
“As we scale up our efforts, R&D collaboration, information sharing, and capacity-building will be key to ensure no one is left behind in the push for the greening of the shipping sector,” Mr. Lim said.
The Ocean Conference saw the unanimous adoption by heads of state and government and high-level representatives of the Lisbon Declaration, “Our ocean, our future, our responsibility”, a suite of science-based actions, taking into account the capacity challenges facing developing countries, in particular, small island developing states and least developing countries, at the frontline of the devastating impacts of the ocean emergency.
GloLitter – addressing marine plastic litter
Reducing marine debris in the oceans is a key target under the Sustainable development Goal (SDG) 14. The IMO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) GloLitter Partnerships Project (launched in 2019 with initial funding from the Government of Norway), aims to help shipping and fisheries move to a low-plastics future. GloLitter is assisting developing countries identify opportunities to prevent and reduce marine litter, including plastic litter, from within the maritime transport and fisheries sectors, and to decrease the use of plastics in these industries, including identifying opportunities to re-use and recycle plastics.
At the IMO-organised side-event on shipping and fisheries cooperation to tackle sea-based sources of marine litter, GloLitter lead partner country Costa Rica shared examples on how the country addresses the major issue of plastic litter, including banning single use plastics such as supermarket plastic bags. With the support from the GloLitter project, the country will implement a number of priority actions to tackle sea-based marine plastic, focusing on legal and policy reform and the implementation of IMO’s MARPOL Annex V instrument on regulation of garbage from ships, the London Convention and Protocol on dumping of waste at sea, and the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Marking of Fishing Gear. Costa Rica plans to establish port reception facilities to be able to collect marine plastic litter, including fishing gear, with the aim being to reuse them in the circular economy.
At the same side-event, FAO also shared their experiences with addressing marine plastic litter in the fisheries sector, and a representative from the GloLitter Global Industry Alliance, highlighted the importance of linking regulatory and industry actions.
The Lisbon Declaration commits to preventing, reducing, and eliminating marine plastic litter, including single-use plastics and microplastics, including through contributing to comprehensive life-cycle approaches, encouraging resource efficiency and recycling as well as environmentally sound waste management. It recognises the establishment by resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) of an intergovernmental negotiating committee towards an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.
Combating climate change
The Lisbon Declaration commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international maritime transportation, especially shipping, as soon as possible, acknowledging the leadership role of IMO.
IMO participated in several events highlighting IMO’s efforts to decarbonise shipping, including the ongoing work with many countries through its global projects to showcase innovation, link decarbonisation projects together, and promote trials and pilots, which will feed into the revision of the IMO Initial GHG Strategy.
“The just and equitable transition in maritime’s decarbonisation means providing job opportunities and skills development to seafarers, port workers and shipping industries in developing countries,” Mr. Lim said.
“This transition is challenging – but it can enable the sector to reconnect with young generations in all regions of the world, many of whose future careers will feature renewable energy generation and energy efficiency technology. As the shipping industry makes this transition it will create opportunities for many developing countries, which are already exploring renewable fuel production that can serve to accelerate their transition to low-carbon economies. All stakeholders must work together to sustain the momentum of decarbonisation in shipping and work together for a greener future,” he said.
Empowering women and girls
The Lisbon Declaration commits to empowering women and girls, as their full, equal and meaningful participation is key in progressing towards a sustainable ocean-based economy. The declaration commits to achieving Goal 14, and to mainstream a gender perspective in work to conserve and sustainably use the ocean and its resources.
IMO participated in a side event co-sponsored by the World Maritime University–Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute; International Maritime Organization; International Seabed Authority; Government of Antigua and Barbuda; Sailors for the Sea Japan; and Leading Women for the Ocean.
“By actively empowering women with the requisite skills and maintaining a barrier-free working environment, we create truly sustainable systems of gender equality,” Mr. Lim said. “Our efforts to support the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality must continue to be embedded across all of IMO’s work. This is vital at a time when the maritime industry is working to transition to a more sustainable future and to decarbonise, digitalise, increase efficiency, and fight climate change. This transition cannot take place without the brightest minds working to find solutions.”
Addressing underwater noise from ships
The IMO delegation also participated in a side-event on underwater noise, showcasing the work of the Organization on the implementation of the guidelines on reducing underwater noise from commercial shipping to address adverse impacts on marine life, as well as the connection to Particular Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs).
An important step towards a project to build capacity to address noise from shipping was taken the week prior to the UN Ocean Conference. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) approved the Project Identification Form to prepare the full proposal for a medium-size GEF funded project. This means that IMO will initiate the preparatory phase for a global capacity building intervention on the matter of underwater noise from ships.
IMO contributed to and co-organised several events that highlighted the crucial nature of interagency cooperation, through UN-Oceans as well as the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) together with other entities in the UN system.
The United Nations Ocean Conference was attended by more than 6000 participants, including 24 heads of state and government, and more than 2000 representatives of civil society.
IMO contributed to the overall planning and preparation of the Ocean Conference, as a co-convenor of the Informal Preparatory Working Group 1 on marine pollution, together with UNEP, thus leading the preparation of the background document for the Interactive Dialogue on marine pollution during the Conference.