Our Take on the UN Ocean Conference 2022

The UN Ocean Conference took place from 27th June to 1st July in Lisbon, Portugal under the theme: “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of SDG 14: Life below Water.

The Great Bubble Barrier team was honoured and excited to attend in person the UN Ocean Conference, discussing the challenges and solutions needed for a healthy ocean, together with committed individuals and organizations from all over the world. The introductory words of UN Secretary General António Guterres gave the tone for the upcoming days:

“I apologize to youth on behalf of my generation for not having protected the ocean. This week’s UN Ocean Conference will be key to find ways to Save Our Ocean for the benefit of people and planet. I count on young’s people strength, dynamism, and action to rescue our planet”.

The urgent topics on the agenda – marine pollution, coral reef preservation, the future of aquatic foods, funding the sustainable blue economy, regulation on deep sea mining, and acting upon the ocean-climate change – led to hopeful discussions and a positive vibe. The interaction between all themes was highlight by UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thompson:

“Everything is connected. From chemical and plastic pollution, to overfishing, habitat loss, ocean warming, death of coral and rising sea levels – all have the same anthropogenic origins, arising from our long record of flagrant disrespect for Nature and everything it provides. It is time to reset the balance and give Nature the respect that is its due, at the very deepest of levels.”

The team was involved in many events and activities, and bring here some of the highlights of the discussions regarding the company’s main mission: stopping plastic pollution.

Localizing Action: the role of local & regional governments

In an event focused on the role of local and regional governments in the efforts to protect our ocean, the panellists proposed an approach that is already part of our projects:    

  1. Co-create local solutions for the global ecological challenges..

  2. Engage local communities for designing a resilient plan, taking into account not only environmental but also social implications of the choices made

  3. Learn from other’s successful experiences out there to inspire and motivate action.

Interactive Dialogue on Marine Pollution

The Great Bubble Barrier had the chance to present a statement, at the dialogue on Marine Pollution. It was the perfect opportunity to convey the message from two consortiums aimed at fighting oceanic plastic pollution with the support and co-funding from the European Union: MAELSTROM and InNoPlastic. The core of our statement can be found below:

We propose 6 actions which we can implement today to help turn the tide on our plastic pollution crisis:

• Establish a limit to the number of plastic items, including microplastics, in the assessment of water quality and monitor plastic pollution in rivers and estuaries;

• Financially support cities in removing plastic pollution from their waterways and support sustainable recycling thereof;

• Foster the adoption of autonomous plastic removal technologies in rivers and coastal areas, including harbours and beaches;

• Create differentiated recycling schemes according to the plastic types and support chemical recycling of marine litter;  

• Adopt innovative renewable energy solutions for plastic pollution removal technologies in off-grid locations;

• Engage citizens in clean-ups by financially supporting NGOs that do it with due respect for the environment.

Together with our MAELSTROM’s partners, The Great Bubble Barrier also had the opportunity to present its technology and a joint project to be soon implemented in Portugal

Being at the conference in person enabled the team to have fruitful conversations as well as casual encounters with interesting, committed and high level decision makers, such as Special UN Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson; Coordinator of UNESCO Chair on Ocean Sustainability, Prof. Alexander Turra; UNESCO Champion for Ocean and Youth, Maya Gabeira; EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fischeries, Virginijus Sinkevičius; Executive Director of Stockholm International Water Institute, Torgny Holmgren; and many others.

The year 2022 is turning out to be the year for mobilization around the Ocean: One Ocean Summit in February, followed by the launch of the UN Plastic Treaty negotiations, in March, and the UN Ocean Conference in June, with high expectations for the years to come and for the regeneration of our ocean’s health.

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