A group of over 100 charities and organisations from across Europe have signed a new document laying out a clear plan of action for the EU to take in protecting our oceans by 2030.
In December last year the European Union’s new ‘green deal’ was unveiled to the world to some very mixed reviews. Whilst the decision to push the continent away from fossil fuels and towards environmental protection was inspired by the global wave of youth climate protesters and echoed many of their calls, ultimately it felt like this new plan fell way short of what is really needed. One of the biggest problems with the proposal is that it mainly focuses on land based solutions and very little on the crucial role our oceans play in protecting us from climate change. Now a new document, titled the ‘blue manifesto’ and signed by over a hundred marine charities and NGOs, is calling for marine conservation to be included in the green deal to secure healthy oceans by 2030.
Europe’s green deal
In December President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the EU’s proposal to shift away from fossil fuels and cut dangerous emissions. Named the ‘green deal’ the document proposed how over ten years the EU would cut emissions in half (compared to 1990) and set the continent on its way to being carbon neutral by 2050. On the face of it the green deal looks like a big step forward for climate activists. It is supposed to cost the EU a trillion euros and is described by von der Leyen as “Europe’s man on the moon moment”.
However the proposal has been heavily criticised and when you look through it properly it is easy to see why. That is because the one trillion that is promised is mainly just reshuffled money from existing EU funds, and is less than a quarter of the amount given to bankers by the EU since 2009. Additionally it promises to mobilise private-sector capital down the road (something they have promised before) and lacks any sort of clear guidelines about how all this is actually going to happen. As well as these issues, many also feel like the deal doesn’t go far enough to protect wildlife and habitats, especially when it comes to the oceans.
No blue, no green
You only have to read the title of the green deal to understand how it incorporates marine conservation (it doesn’t). However it is our oceans that are facing the brunt of climate change, by absorbing a majority of heat and carbon dioxide we produce, as well as being bombarded from all angles by human activity. It is therefore imperative that any long-term legislation designed to tackle climate change must also protect our oceans. After all science shows us that without healthy oceans there is no hope of maintaining healthy and biodiverse habitats on land.
“We need thriving marine and coastal ecosystems to support a climate-resilient future” – Blue Manifesto 2020
The EU has already made previous promises to help protect the ocean. In 2008 they committed to having “ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive” by 2020. Obviously this is something they never even came close to achieving, which is why charities and NGOs are starting to ramp up the pressure on politicians to not make the same mistakes again.
Roadmap to a healthy ocean
In response to the lack of ocean protection proposed by the green deal major marine charities and NGO’s have decided to create their own ‘roadmap to a healthy ocean’ for the EU to follow. They are led by Seas At Risk, Birdlife International, Client Earth, Oceana, Surfrider and WWF, but in total 102 civil society organisations working for healthy seas from all over Europe have signed the document, which has been titled the ‘blue manifesto’.
Unlike most other reports of this nature, what the blue manifesto has going for it is that it is concise, clear and achievable. The document is just a couple of pages long and presents a timeline of simple steps for the EU to take over the next decade. It is backed up by research from scientists across the world and regardless of climate change contains a list of initiatives that should have been implemented a long time ago. Despite being made in response to the EU’s green deal, it is actually a blueprint that every other nation in the world can follow to protect their oceans and in turn help tackle the climate crisis.
The main points of the manifesto are…
- Strong and complete protection for at least 30% of our oceans by 2030. Aims to create a network of MPA’s and exclusion zones to protect the most important and diverse marine habitats including coastal regions and seagrass meadows. Allows marine species to recover without the interference of human activities, but must be properly enforced.
- A full transition to low impact fishing. Overfishing, illegal fishing, bycatch and destructive methods are all big issues in EU waters. Need to quickly transition from unsustainable methods to prevent population and habitat collapses. New laws need to be put in place by the EU without worrying about harming the fishing industry that must adapt to new rules.
- A pollution-free ocean. Plastics, agricultural and chemical pollution are destroying freshwater and marine ecosystems. The EU must tackle the root causes of these forms of pollution and meet international standards for water quality by 2030. Also need to restrict fishing vessel and shipping speeds to reduce greenhouse gases and noise pollution.
- An organization of human activities allowing marine eco-systems restoration. Need to transition to an economy that allows for co-existence with the marine world. Damaging practises such as deep-sea mining and oil/gas extraction must be completely stopped by 2030. Industries like shipping must also make themselves a lot more environmentally friendly.
These are just a summary of the main points, to read the full document for yourself click here.
The ‘blue manifesto’ is just the latest piece of legislation that backs up the widely held belief between scientists, conservationists and policy makers, that this decade will be decisive in whether or not we can save our seas and prevent runaway climate breakdown. 2019 saw a wave of mobilisation in climate activism amongst Europe’s younger generations and a much greater appreciation form the general public of the issues plaguing our oceans. So despite falling short on previous plans and a bleak outlook for many marine environments, there is still hope. However that hope quickly needs to be turned into something more meaningful and effective, because 2030 will be upon us in the blink of an eye.