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Environmentalists slam UN inaction at ocean conference

July 1, 2022

Experts and activists said delegates at a UN conference did little in the way of making real progress in protecting the world's crucial oceans. Ocean ecosystems are on the brink of collapse due to climate change.

A walrus on a melting ice sheet
Environmental-protection groups called a UN conference to protect oceans a missed opportunityImage: ZDF

Environmental protection groups called out the United Nations on Friday, calling the UN ocean conference a missed opportunity to promise real action in an ecosystem struggling under overfishing, warming temperatures, pollution and acidification.

In a statement, numerous NGOs, including BUND, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Germany-based Brot für die Welt criticized the conference's closing declaration as non-committal and therefore meaningless.

"We have seen many declarations before, we have heard many promises, pledges and voluntary commitments," said Laura Meller of Greenpeace. "But if declarations could save the oceans they wouldn't be on the brink of collapse."

Marco Lambertini, director-general of the WWF, said, "The ocean, climate and coastal communities worldwide need real progress, not promises."

Treaty expected in August

The environmentalists added that the five-day conference in Portugal did not even present a report on the progress of the goals set out at the last UN oceans summit, which took place in New York in 2017. 

The only positives outcomes, according to the statement, were the numerous individual initiatives announced in Lisbon in areas such as deep-sea mining, fishing and underwater noise pollution.

In August, UN member states hope to finally hammer out a new treaty, which has been in talks for more than a decade, to protect critical ocean ecosystems. Greenpeace said the success of the Lisbon conference could only be measured after the treaty had been adopted.

es/sms (dpa, Reuters)