EU announces €816.5 million worth of commitments to protect the ocean – and spends €900 BILLION on fossil fuel subsidies
“My message today is short: Our oceans are dying!”
These are the opening words of Mr. Juan Monterrey’s (Director of Geoverstiy’s School for Biocultural Leadership) speech at the Our Ocean Conference, which kicked off Thursday in Panama.
Positive headlines are decorating our news feeds for once, informing us about the achievements, commitments, and efforts of our leaders in protecting our ocean.
“EU announces €816.5 million worth of commitments to protect the ocean”
“World Leaders Take Action Towards 30% Ocean Protection”
“Major commitments from the United Kingdom for coral reefs”
“US pledges billions at international ocean conference”
While I certainly appreciate good news, I prefer when facts are presented in a meaningful context. With that in mind, let’s dive into the accomplishments of this year’s Our Ocean Conference. Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine whether these developments constitute good news.
You can watch the whole 10h conference live stream here, but I’ll spare you the trouble by giving you the juicy stuff right away.
The Our Ocean Conference was founded in 2014 by the then-Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat. Since its inaugural event in Malta in October 2014, the conference has been held in various countries around the world, including Chile, the United States, Indonesia, Malta, Norway, and Panama. Its goal is to develop a global framework for better management and conservation of the world’s marine and coastal environments.
The 8th edition of the Our Ocean Conference is taking place in Panama in 2023 and is being organized by the Government of Panama, in collaboration with the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the United Nations Environment Program. It provides a platform for discussion and collaboration between governments, the private sector, civil society, and academic institutions, and will seek to create commitments and initiatives to improve the ocean’s health.
Let’s look at the numbers of the past commitments made since 2014:
During the past eight years, seven conferences have resulted in 1,812 commitments. Of these pledges, 808 have been successfully fulfilled, while 1,004 remain uncompleted. Alarmingly, 361 commitments have yet to be initiated (source: https://ouroceanpanama2023.gob.pa/commitments/).
The majority of commitments were made in the area of sustainable fisheries, followed by marine pollution and the sustainable Blue Economy. Climate change and marine protected areas, which are two of the most pressing issues, ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.
In terms of the entities that made these commitments, governmental organizations were responsible for nearly 60% of the total pledges. Intergovernmental organizations accounted for 13.5%, while the private sector contributed approximately 10%. Non-governmental and civil society organizations made up 7.5% of commitments, with the remainder coming from philanthropic individuals and organizations.
Now let’s explore the term “commitment,” which is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a promise or firm decision to do something”.
Imagine meeting only 45% of the commitments you made to someone. Would you consider yourself a trustworthy and reliable person that people can count on? Would you feel proud of yourself if you fulfilled less than half of the promises you made to your loved ones? The answer is likely no.
But hey, sometimes, it’s the thought that counts, right? So let’s give the “big guys” another chance, will we?
We’ll do that by looking at some of the commitments from 2022 a bit closer:
Climate Change Commitments:
Australia announces $4.7 million for the second phase of the Pacific Regional Blue Carbon Initiative, supporting efforts to protect and manage blue carbon ecosystems in the Pacific.
Over the past five years, coal mining revenues in Australia have grown at an annualized rate of 14.6%, reaching an estimated $157.0 billion.
According to Carbon Justice, the emissions generated each year by Australia’s largest fossil fuel producers (including Glencore, BHP Yancoal, Peabody, Whitehaven, and Anglo-American) are greater than the total emissions of all 25 million Australians. Not only is Australia one of the world’s largest exporters of fossil fuels, but it’s also one of the most polluting countries per capita.
The European Union announces a contribution of €55.17 million to strengthen marine environmental monitoring and monitoring of climate change, through its satellite-monitoring programme (Copernicus) and Wekeo data service.
In 2022, the European Union invests €142 million in coal and steel project.
Indonesia, through the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries in 2022 allocated $1 million to support the blue carbon ecosystem through mangrove rehabilitation; the program will rehabilitate 210 hectares of mangrove in 10 locations all over Indonesia.
In 2021, Indonesia lost 203.000 hectares of rainforest to deforestation. Mostly for industrial mining, including coal.
In the capital Jakarta, home to 11 million people, pollution levels are six times the WHO guideline. Instead of tackling the root problem, the government’s solution is to move the capital of Indonesia to a different island.
Sustainable Fisheries Commitments:
The UK commits to funding for sustainable seafood industry through the £100 million UK Seafood Fund.
Several endangered and critically endangered shark species are being sold in the United Kingdom under misleading names such as Flake, Huss, Rock Salmon, and Rigg. Despite their protected status, these species are being sold over the counter.
Norway increases support to sustainable aquaculture development in developing countries ($9.5 million).
Norway continues to engage in commercial whaling practices. The country is actively opposing the establishment of a whaling-free whale sanctuary in the Southern Atlantic region, highlighting its continued support for this industry.
The European Union has committed €60 million for fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly sea food system.
When it comes to the global trade of shark meat and fins, European nations, particularly Spain and Portugal, have a significant role to play. These countries are responsible for exporting approximately 50% of the world’s shark meat and fin trade.
Marine Protected Areas commitments
Australia announces $15 million to support the restoration of 13 natural shellfish reefs around the Australian coastline.
Under the regime of Gautam Adani, the third wealthiest person in the world, the Adani coal mine in Queensland, Australia, shipped its first batch of coal directly through the Great Barrier Reef in 2021.
The European Union announces €23 million in research and innovation for the exploration, better understanding and valuing of coastal and marine biodiversity.
EU spending on weapons surpassed €200 billion in 2021.
The United States announced efforts to support coastal zone management, restoration, and habitat conservation.
US regulators gave approval to The Metals Company (TMC) to start deep sea mining on the seabed between Hawaii and Mexico in 2022.
A total of 89 climate change commitments worth $4.9 billion were made last year. Amazing! Now let’s put that into perspective:
In 2020, fossil fuels received $5.9 trillion in subsidies worldwide. Yes, that’s right — TRILLION. So roughly $11 million are being spent to support the fossil fuel industry EVERY MINUTE.
And you’re telling me that world leaders have just spent two whole days in Panama to discuss their $4.9 billion commitments, from which, historically speaking, not even half will be met, and the world is celebrating it as good news?
I love the fact that conferences are being held with the goal of protecting our ocean in joint efforts, but I’m wary of those who pretend to be environmentally conscious while actively contributing to its destruction. I don’t like imposters who play the role of the good guys who care about our planet while wrecking our very last chance to save it.
And when I talk about saving our planet and our ocean, I really am talking about saving ourselves because the ocean is always going to be OK. The ocean has been here for billions of years and couldn’t care less about this little virus called humanity. It’s us who are in danger.
The full list of this year’s commitments hasn’t been published yet, and I will keep an open mind and a hopeful heart for news that can really be considered good news. But I’m also a realist, and I know that sh*t’s going south and all that is being done is some greenwashing to win the votes of the vegans.