With global leaders heading to the United Nations for a major conference in June on the protection and sustainable use of the planet’s oceans, the UN announced on Tuesday that the inaugural World Ocean Festival will kick off the week-long event, with activists and enthusiasts taking to the streets – and waterways – of New York City to raise their voices to reverse the declining health of our oceans.
At a joint press briefing at UN Headquarters today, Penny Abeywardena, the Commissioner of the (New York City) Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, joined Peter Thompson, President of the UN General Assembly, to announce the first-ever Festival which will be held on Sunday, 4 June, the day before the opening of The Ocean Conference, which will run from 5 to 9 June.
The Festival, organized by the Global Brian Foundation, will galvanize people across the world to bring public attention to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 14, on conservation and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, “right here in New York City, a premier coastal city,” said Ms. Abeywardena.
“Through these gatherings, people will come together to catalyze specific steps we can take as a community to preserve our oceans and engage our citizens and in particular, our young people,” she said, adding that, with 520 miles (about 835 kilometres) of coastline, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration recognizes the need for cities to lead on protecting the planet from degradation through sustainable consumption and effective management of the world’s natural resources and mitigating the worst impacts of climate change.
For his part, Assembly President Thomson said New York City is a model not only in the United States but around the world of what cities can do in integrating the SDGs with their urban development planning, drawing attention to Mayor de Blasio’s ‘One NYC’ initiative.
An opportunity to address major woes humanity has put upon the ocean
As for the Conference, he said “the ocean is in deep trouble,” facing threats such as marine pollution; fishery subsidies at a time when fish stocks are collapsing; and degraded coastal ecosystems planet-wide. “The Ocean Conference is [a timely opportunity] to address these major woes humanity has put upon the ocean,” he continued, adding that it also will provide an opportunity to think about the impacts of climate change.
“With ocean acidification, we’re already seeing the effects of this; its serious business in Oregon and Washington state and its spreading around the world and is also serious business for the tropics, where because of rising temperatures life is leaving our waters because it is too hot,” explained Mr. Thomson, noting that 40 per cent of the cause of rising sea levels is due to the fact that oceans are heating up.