Posted by: Hendra Siry | 27 June, 2009

Heal Oceans To Save Planet Earth

The world’s oceans which cover two thirds or more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface, are an important source of life. Millions of people depend on oceans and coastal areas in earning a living. Indonesia’s marine tourism revenue reached US$2 billion per year and the country earned around US$2.2 billion from fish exports in 2008, Indonesia’s Antara news agency quoted Alfred Nakatsuma, director of the Environment office of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as saying recently.

Oceans are the source of most rainfall, regulate the earth’s temperatures and wind patterns, clean the water the people drink, offer a pharmacopoeia of potential medicines, and generate most of the oxygen the people breathe. Healthy and functioning oceans provide essential services to human communities that support economic well-being and human health to inlude providing food, shoreline protection, a source of non living resources for energy and trade, recreation and culture.

The world’s ocean and climate are inextricably linked: the ocean plays a crucial role in maintaining the Earth’s climate, and ocean life is vulnerable to climate change, which could among other things trigger sea-level rise. “Likewise, in our interconnected world, the ocean affects us and we affect the ocean,” according to the Ocean Project in its press release observing the first World Ocean Day themed “one ocean, one climate, one future”, on June 8, 2009.

The world’s oceans and seas are now understood to be the biggest sink of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. Indeed experts now estimate that up to 40 per cent of the C02 entering the atmosphere is being cycled through the marine environment playing a crucial role in moderating climate change. The oceans play a vast role in countering climate change – they are our ‘blue’ forests, according to Achim Steiner, executive director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in his message prior to the implementation of the First World Ocean Conference held in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, May 11-15, 2009.

However, the situation regarding oceans and coastal areas as well as marine biodiversity is worse than people thought. Oceans which were very important, were very distressed among other things because of overfishing, over exploitation, pollution, and global warming as well as climate change. “We have to improve the health of our oceans,” Steiner said. “They have to be as fit and resilient as possible, so that they can cope with the climate change burden– so they can continue to provide us with food and the myriad of other economically-important services,” he stated.

This means governments have to urgently address the multiple challenges weakening oceans and seas, from land based pollution and discharges from ships up to over exploitation of the globe’s vital fisheries, fueled in large part by perverse and wasteful subsidies totaling up to $35 billion a year, he said. Currently somewhere around 12 per cent of the land is held in protected areas, but less one per cent of the marine environment enjoys such status so this needs to change as soon as possible, the UNEP chief urged.

He also called for investments in adaptation, rehabilitation, rejuvenation and resilience of coastal ecosystems, from mangroves to coral reefs and wetlands, to generate significant returns in respect to climate-proofing economies. These include protecting vulnerable communities against storms surges and sea level rise while also helping to soak up greenhouse gas emissions; filter pollution and improve the health of fisheries.

And perhaps, just over the horizon, there is an even bigger prize’a way to make the oceans part of the carbon market options. Rewarding countries that sustainable manage them to boost their climate combating role and productivity would seem well worth exploring,” he said. Indonesia, as one of the world’s largest maritime countries with about 5.8 million square kilometers of marine territory, last May 11-15, 2009, organized the first World Ocean Conference (WOC), in Manado, North Sulawesi, bringing together experts and officials from over 70 countries.

The developing countries are hit worst by the impact of climate change because they depend more on natural resources, according to Nakatsuma, when speaking to journalists participating in the Organisation of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) Workshop on “The Role of the Media in Preserving the Global Environment”, which was organized on the sidelines of the WOC. The developed countries, however, depended more on industries and information services than on natural resources, he said.

Coastal communities, mainly in small island states, are deemed the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, mainly due to rising sea levels. Indonesia has around 17,000 islands, and only five of them are big islands, while some of its small islands have already vanished or may disappear due to the human-induced sea level rise. The WOC issued a Manado Declaration (MOD) which required countries to promote sustainable ocean management and ocean conservation. It also pushed ocean issues as an agenda at the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen in December 2009.

The MOD also will strive to reduce pollution of ocean, coastal and land areas and to promote sustainable management of fisheries, as well as stress the need to promote affordable, environmentally sound, and renewable ocean technologies and know-how, particularly in developing countries. As part of the WOC, a summit of Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) member countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Island, and Timor Leste – was held and attended also by observer countries such as the US and Australia.

The countries agreed to launch a programme on the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Securities and Adaptation to Climate Change (CTI-CFFC). Among the CTI countries expressing their commitment for the programme, were Indonesia with financial contribution amounting to US$5 million, PNG US$2 million, the Philippines US$5 million, and Malaysia US$1 million, the ministry said.

In addition to the above-mentioned commitments, there were also the USA with committed funds amounting to US$41.6 million (US$1.6 million, Global Environment Facilities (GEF) amounting US$63 million, and Australia amounting Aus$2 million. Indonesian delegates attended the Bonn climate conference in Germany hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) this week with a clear agenda of ensuring ocean issues are incorporated into climate talks to help save millions of coastal people from the brunt of global warming, in the upcoming Copenhagen climate conference.”

The world’s attentions and commitments to heal the oceans reflect the importance of the world’s oceans to Planet Earth’s health. As a further step of Indonesia’s care for the oceans, an Indonesian delegation promoted the incorporation of ocean issues in an international meeting on climate change held in Bonn, Germany, June 1-12, 2009, which was undertaken by the United Nations Framework of Climate Change (UNFCCC) in preparing COP-15 UNFCCC in Copenhagen, December 2009.

Source: Bernama, June 25, 2009

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