Sea change

By XIE XI and YEUNG CHUNG WING | China Daily Global
Updated: July 4, 2022
HOU PING/FOR CHINA DAILY

China is establishing blue partnerships to scale up actions to conserve and sustainably use the oceans

The 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference was held from June 27 to July 2 in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. As a critical opportunity to advance progress toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14, it has aroused worldwide attention and expectation.

While the overall theme of the conference was "Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions", the Chinese delegation has highlighted "Blue Partnerships" as one of the important measures China is taking in response to the UN 2030 Agenda goal.

Blue Partnerships was one of the initiatives China proposed at the 2017 UN Ocean Conference, together with two other initiatives, Vigorously Developing a Blue Economy and Promoting a Marine Ecological Civilization. Since then, China has taken active deployments and actions to fulfill SDG 14, while officially establishing bilateral partnerships with other countries and regions, including Portugal, the European Union, Seychelles and Mozambique.

The 16 Blue Partnership Principles announced by the Chinese delegation on June 29 at this year's UN Ocean Conference put forward the concept, vision, basic connotation and common collaborative areas of Blue Partnership with the primary areas of cooperation in marine ecological protection, addressing climate change, reducing marine pollution, sustainable use of marine resources and promoting blue growth. The basic concept reflected in the principles is to balance the marine environmental protection and sustainable utilization of marine resources.

As to the common actions under the Blue Partnerships, several measures have been recommended, such as science and technology innovation, implementation of ecosystem-based integrated ocean management, promotion of solutions and enhancing capacity building.

Sustainability has become an essential feature in the national marine strategy and different levels of policies of China. The Blue Partnership Principles reflect China's determination and ambition to actively participate in and lead the global ocean sustainable development and protection.

In response to the growing challenges facing the ocean environment domestically and globally, China has enhanced its ocean governance efforts in the past decades. Up to now, China has established 273 various-level marine reserves and marine parks and included 30 percent of China's coastal waters and 37 percent of its continental coastline under the control of ecological red lines. In addition, China has taken the initiative to restore more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline, implemented a seasonal ban on marine fishing for 27 years, and set up 136 State-level marine-ranching demonstration areas to restore marine resources.

The ocean's role and importance have gained better recognition among China's decision-makers, and there is greater cooperation and synergy on ocean issues among different ministries. A joint ocean-climate agenda is under consideration. The White Paper on the Compliance of China's Distant Water Fisheries 2020, for instance, has called for the integration of climate risk management into fishery decisions, and the recently released National Climate Adaptation Strategy 2035 states the plan to enhance the ability of marine and coastal ecosystems to adapt to climate change.

China has also participated in international cooperation on marine plastic pollution, regulating global transport of waste and pollutants, ocean monitoring, as well as building the capacity of coastal and island countries on marine spatial planning and development of the blue economy.

With the support of the Ministry of Natural Resources of China, the Sustainable Blue Partnership Cooperation Network was launched at the UN Ocean Conference. As an informal platform to facilitate multi-stakeholder cooperation, it welcomes the participation of all stakeholders who are willing to endorse the Blue Partnership Principles as guidelines for ocean practices. It is convened by the Friends of Ocean Action of the World Economic Forum and the China Oceanic Development Foundation. This underscores China's intention to enhance multi-stakeholder cooperation in ocean sustainability.

Globally, there is still much to do. As a new report, SDG 14 Financing Landscape Scan: Tracking Funds to Realize Sustainable Outcomes for the Ocean, indicates, SDG 14 remains the least funded of all the 17 SDG goals, yet achieving it will have significant exponential benefits for people and the planet. There is increasing ambition and encouraging progress, but we still need firm trust and cohesive cooperation among all stakeholders to translate the dialogues and agreements into real actions and common benefits.

In order to ensure the health of the ocean in providing the ecosystem services for sustainable economic development and the livelihoods of coastal communities, the world should unite to effectively protect and restore the ecosystems and sustainably transform the ocean-related industries that have a negative impact on the planet. Ambitious targets should be set to protect the global oceans as marine-protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures by 2030. Nature-based and innovative solutions for low-carbon development should be coupled with the implementation of ecosystem-based coastal zone management, and active public participation needs to be promoted. Collaboration is also needed to end overfishing; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices to maintain the sustainable production of the oceans.

A sustainable blue economy is an important area for partnership to significantly reduce anthropogenic pressure on the oceans in the long term. A sustainable blue economy is defined as one that provides social and economic benefits for current and future generations; restores, protects and maintains diverse, productive and resilient ecosystems; and is based on clean technologies, renewable energy and circular material flows. Its growth, therefore, must be driven by investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy efficiency and harness the power of natural capital and the benefits that these ecosystems provide, alongside halting the loss of marine biodiversity. Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles need to be promoted and recognized by finance regulators and investors. More and more enterprises have included ocean sustainability in their CSR and ESG considerations, which is a positive sign.

With the development of Blue Partnerships, we can accelerate efforts to realize SDG 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

Xie Xi is project lead of Friends of Ocean Action of China at the World Economic Forum's Beijing Representative Office. Yeung Chung Wing is a senior ocean program expert consultant at the World Wide Fund for Nature China. The authors contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn

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